The third annual North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad
is currently registering high school students for the 2009 competition.
"This olympiad is a contest in which high-school students solve linguistic puzzles. In solving the problems, students learn about the diversity and consistency of language, while exercising logic skills. No prior knowledge of linguistics or second languages is necessary. Professionals in linguistics, computational linguistics and language technologies use dozens of the world's languages to create engaging problems that represent cutting edge issues in their fields. The competition has attracted top students to study and work in those same fields. This is truly an opportunity for young people to experience a taste of natural-language processing in the 21st century.
The first round is on February 4, 2009. Top performers will be invited to the second round on March 11, 2009."
Here's one of the questions from last year, which I found particularly fun. At first I had no idea where to start, but eventually a few words started to become clear. There was something in the back of my mind, but I couldn't access it. And then, suddenly, it all just fell into place.
An excerpt from a well known text is shown below. It is in two languages (X and Y) that are closely linguistically related to each other and also to English. However the two versions are not perfect translations of one another.
Text in language X
X1. Rödluvan: Men mormor, varför har du så stora ögon?
X2. "Mormor": Det är bara för attjag skall se dig bättre, mitt bam.
X3. Rödluvan: Men mormor, varför har du så stora öron?
X4. "Mormor": Det är bara för attjag skall höra dig bättre, mitt bam.
X5. Rödluvan: Men mormor, varför har du så stora tänder?
X6. "Mormor": Det är bara för attjag skall kunna äta upp dig!
(almost) the same text in language Y
Y1. - Så store ører du har, bestemor, sa Rødhette.
Y2. - Det er fordi jeg skal kunne høre deg bedre, svarte ulven.
Y3. - Så store øyne du har, bestemor, sa Rødhette.
Y 4. - Det er fordi j eg skal kunne se deg bedre, svarte ulven.
Y5. - Så store hender du har, bestemor, sa Rødhette.
Y6. - Det er fordi jeg skal kunne klemme deg bedre, svarte ulven.
Y7. - Så stor munn du har, bestemor, sa Rødhette.
Y8. - Det er fordi jeg skal kunne ete deg bedre, svarte ulven.
Dl (practical). Translate sentences X1 and X2 into grammatical English using your own words and word order.
Oh, wow! Why didn't they have this when I was in high school?
I actually remember the answer to that question, having seen it elsewhere.
It's intentional that X goes only to 6 while Y goes to 8?
Yes, Michael, it's intentional.
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