Dragomir Radev, Professor in Computer Science and Engineering, the School of Information, and in the Department of Linguistics, has coached US high school students to successful competition at the 14th International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL), which was held at the Infosys campus in Mysore, India from from July 25 to July 29, 2016. It is the tenth year that Radev has coached the team.
The IOL has been held annually since 2003, and each year teams from around the world compete to solve the world’s toughest puzzles in language and linguistics.
Two four-student teams from the US and one team from Canada made the trip to compete in the IOL from North America (Team USA Red, Team USA Blue, and Team Canada). Prof. Radev and Prof. Aleka Blackwell of Middle Tennessee State University coached the US teams; Prof. Heather Newell of the Université du Québec à Montréal coached the Canadian team. The North American teams joined 41 other teams from 29 other countries to compete in the Olympiad.
The IOL consists of individual and team contests with unique problems each year. This year’s individual contest focused on Aralle-Tabulahan, Luwian, Kunuz Nubian, Iatmül, and Jaqaru languages. For the team contest, the teams were tasked with matching the pronunciation of 114 Taa words with their transcriptions. Problem solving at the IOL stresses the ability of contestants to decipher the mechanisms of languages by using logic and reasoning to explore a wide range of hypotheses.
In the individual round, James Wedgwood from the USA team won a gold medal. Silver medals went to three other US contestants: Margarita Misirpashayeva of New Jersey, Shuheng “Nelson” Niu of California, and Erik Metz of Maryland. Wyatt Reeves of Texas and Siye “Annie” Zhu of Massachusetts won bronze medals. Finally, Kevin Sun, Minh-Tam Nguyen and James Hogan, all of Ontario, along with Laurestine Bradford of Washington and Jack LaFleur of Washington, DC were awarded honorable mentions. Kevin Sun also received a Best Solution Award for Problem 1. Team USA Red received the blue cup for the highest combined scores on the individual event, scoring 61.75 points, and ahead of two teams from Russia.
The US and Canadian team members were selected from more than 1,700 students who competed in the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO). Profs. Radev and Prof. Lori Levin of Carnegie Mellon University are the founders of NACLO.