Junior wins lingustics Olympiad as member of United States team

Rebecca Jacobs ’09 participated in the fifth annual International Linguistics Olympiad as a member of a team of American delegates that won first place in the competition. The event was held in St. Petersburg, Russia from July 31 to Aug. 4.

Jacobs’ squad was among 16 teams of four students. Nine countries participated in the competition.
Jacobs qualified for the competition after placing fifth out of 195 participants nationally in the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad earlier this year.

After becoming interested in linguistics, the study of the structure of languages, in 2005, Jacobs decided to educate herself on the subject through books and online courses.

The International Olympiad consisted of two rounds.

The first was a six-hour individual competition with one question each on the Braille script of English, forming negations of words in the Bolivian language of Movima, Georgian verb systems, the base-six number system of Papua New Guinea’s Ndom dialect and correspondences between Turkish and Tatar.

The second round, with a three-hour time limit, was a team contest with a single question on Hawaiian genealogical terms.

Due to the nature of computational linguistics, which is the use of mathematical technologies to study language and language patterns, participants were quizzed on dialects that they were not expected to have previously known.

Activities for Olympiad participants included a group tour of St. Petersburg, soccer and volleyball competitions between players from different countries and numerous card games.

“I made friends with many of the other participants,” Jacobs said.