The summer games in Beijing are not the only place where the United States can claim gold medal bragging rights. The sixth International Linguistics Olympiad ended Friday in Slanchev Bryag, Bulgaria, and U.S. high school students captured 11 out of 33 awards, including gold medals in individual and team events. This was only the second time the U.S. has ever competed in the event. Their achievement brings a new focus on computational linguistics.
This year's Olympiad featured 16 teams from around the world, including Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Sweden, South Korea and Slovenia. Each problem presented clues about the sounds, words or grammar of a language the students had never studied, such as Micmac, a Native American language spoken in Canada, the New Caledonia languages of Drehu and Cemuhi, as well as several historical Chinese dialects. They were then judged by how accurately and quickly they could untangle the clues to figure out the rules and structures of the languages to solve the problem.