09 June 2010

International Linguistic Olympiad

I was at the NAQT HSNCT two weekends ago in Chicago and Andw and I got to talking about linguistics with one of the teams.  They were really excited because they had recently started a Linguistics Olympiad team at their school. 

I had never heard of this, so I looked into it.  Looks like the North American Linguistic Olympiad is part of the International Linguistic Olympiad (ILO), which is in turn part of the International Science Olympiad, which is really neat.  I love languages because they're the perfect blend of math and art.  This makes so much sense.  I love it when things make sense.

Here's some info about how the Olympiad works (according to their Wiki article):

This olympiad furthers the field of mathematical, theoretical and descriptive linguistics. Like all science olympiads, its problems are translated and completed in several languages and as such must be written free of any native language constraints. In practice, this is often difficult and competitors may gain some advantage if they are familiar with one or more of the language groups which are the subject of some of the assignments. However, the most helpful ability is analytic and deductive thinking, as all solutions must include clear reasoning and justification (as in solving mathematical problems).

The individual contest consists of 5 problems which must be solved in 6 hours. The problems cover the main fields of theoretical, mathematical and applied linguistics – phonetics, morphology, semantics, etc.

Since the 2nd ILO, the team contest has consisted of one extremely difficult and time-consuming problem. Teams, which generally consist of 4 students, are given 3–4 hours to solve this problem.

ILO 5 (2007) was held in St. Petersburg, Russia. The five problems at the individual contest were in Braille, Movima, Georgian, Ndom, and correspondences between Turkish and Tatar. The team problem was in Hawaiian and focused on genealogical terms.

ILO 6 (2008) was held in Slantchev Bryag, Bulgaria. The five individual problems were in Micmac, Old Norse poetry (specificially, drottkvætt), Drehu and Cemuhî correspondences, Copainalá Zoque, and Inuktitut. The team problem was about correspondences between Mandarin and Cantonese using the fanqie system.

ILO 7 (2009) was held in Wrocław, Poland, from July 26 to July 30. The subject matter of the five individual problems covered: numerals in the Sulka language, Maninka and Bamana languages in the N'Ko and Latin scripts, traditional Burmese names and their relation with dates of birth, stress position in Old Indic and the relation between grammar and morphology in classical Nahuatl. The team problem was in Vietnamese.

I'm going to look for some sample questions/problems.  I'll post them here and attempt to work them out, with your help!


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