Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Dragomir Radev Coaches US Linguistics Team to Multiple Wins at IOL

Team Canada, Team USA Red, and Team USA Blue. Prof. Radev appears second from the left with USA Red and USA Blue teams.

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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 13th International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL), which was held at the American University in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria from July 20-24, 2015. It is the ninth 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.

On July 18th, 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. Lori Levin of Carnegie Mellon University coached the US teams; Patrick Littell of the University of British Columbia coached the Canadian team. The North American teams joined 40 other teams from 27 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, a six hour exam with five problems, focused on Kabardian, Wambaya, Somali Masafo, Nahuatl, and Arammba, as well as on Soundex, an algorithm for phonetic classification of names. For the team contest, teams were tasked with translating excerpts from a Northern Sotho dictionary. 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, three contestants from the USA teams won gold medals: James Wedgwood of Washington, James Bloxham of Massachusetts, and Kevin Yang of Washington. Silver medals went to three other US contestants: Kevin M Li of California, Conor Stuart-Roe of North Carolina, and Julian Gau of New Jersey. Nilai Sarda of Georgia and Emma McLean of Nova Scotia won bronze medals. Finally, Kevin Q Li of New Jersey, Ben Zhang of Ontario, and James Hyett of Ontario were awarded honorable mentions. James Bloxham and James Wedgwood received best solution awards for Problem 3 and Problem 5, respectively. Team USA Red’s combined scores on the individual score were the highest of any team, which brought them the annual Cup for the team with the highest average performance in the individual contest. This is the third year in a row that USA Red wins the blue cup for the highest combined score in the individual contest of any team.The two US teams (Red and Blue) had an average score of 62 points, which was higher than all other teams.

The USA contestants took five of the top ten places in the individual contest, including three gold medals. USA Red finished in first place among 44 teams based on the combined score of its members in the individual contest, and they finished second on the team problem, following Team UK West.

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 Levin are founders of NACLO.

More info:


Wikipedia: International Linguistics Olympiad

Wikipedia: North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad

Posted: July 30, 2015