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1 The UK Linguistics Olympiad Richard Hudson ISMLA Oxford, Feb 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "1 The UK Linguistics Olympiad Richard Hudson ISMLA Oxford, Feb 2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 The UK Linguistics Olympiad Richard Hudson ISMLA Oxford, Feb 2011

2 2 Plan 1.How it works 2.Some example problems 3.Educational benefits 4.Past, present and future 5.Independent and state schools 6.Boys and girls 7.Age 8.Practicalities

3 3 1. How it works Round 1 (early Feb) –sat in schools –two levels: Foundation level Advanced level Round 2 (late March) –a two-day residential selection process International Linguistics Olympiad (July)

4 4 2. Some example problems Foundation level: Abma –discover vocabulary and syntax in easy data Foundation/Advanced level: Turkish –discover 'vowel harmony' Advanced level: Tangkhul –discover vocabulary and syntax in hard data

5 5 Foundation level: AbmaAbma Mwamni sileng.He drinks water. Nutsu mwatbo mwamni sileng.The child keeps drinking water. Nutsu mwegau.The child grows. mwamni, sileng = drinks/drinking or water nutsu = the child mwatbo = keepsmwegau = grows Foundation level: AbmaAbma

6 6 Water = mwamni or sileng? Nutsu mwatbo mwegalgal. Mworob mwabma. Mwerava Mabontare mwisib. Nutsu mwatbo mwegalgal. Mworob mwabma. Mwerava Mabontare mwisib. Mabontare mwisib. Mweselkani tela mwesak. Mwelebte sileng mwabma. Mabontare mworob mwesak. Sileng mworob. The child keeps crawling. He runs here. He pulls Mabontare. The child keeps crawling. He runs here. He pulls Mabontare down. Mabontare goes down. He carries the axe up. He brings water. Mabontare runs up. The water runs. sileng = watermwamni = drinks/drinking

7 7 Foundation and Advanced: TurkishTurkish ikbalsiz isimsiz sonsuz takatsiz sütsüz parasız unsuccessful nameless endless lacking strength lacking milk cashless Question: Here are two more Turkish words: dil (language), kalıp (form, shape). How would you translate (a) mute (b) shapeless? NB No dot!!

8 8 lacking = siz, suz, … ikbalsiz isimsiz sonsuz takatsiz sütsüz parasız unsuccessful nameless endless lacking strength lacking milk cashless Why does the vowel keep changing?

9 9 A nasty twist Two of the words dont follow the regular pattern. –because theyre borrowed from another language. –BUT we dont know which two! So youre looking for a rule that –explains most of the cases –that (hopefully) makes sense –but that doesnt apply to two of the words. So you have to look globally for a general trend –and hope the exceptions will stand out.

10 10 Advanced: TangkhulTangkhul Structure of problem: –9 sentences in Tangkhul –9 sentences in English that translate them. –but in a different order! Challenge: –Work out which E sentences translate which T sentences –and which E words translate which T words!

11 11 For instance Tangkhul: –(a) a masikserra. –(b) āni masikngarokei –(c) āthum masikngarokngāilā English: –(1) Do they want to pinch each other? –(2) Do you(sg) see it? –(3) Have you(pl) all come?

12 12 3. Educational benefits Children enjoy it. –"Although our students didn't make it to the next round … they - and I - enjoyed the experience, and we look forward to next year's competition." –"This is really the first time that I've seen students actually get so involved in working out how languages work. It really is brilliant!!" But it's also good for their minds.

13 13 Good mind-training Olympiad work requires: formal analysis (pattern-spotting) applied to language long chains of reasoning persistence creativity attention to fine detail attention to the broad picture confidence

14 14 Language awareness Olympiad work requires some intuitive understanding of how languages work –e.g. rules may be sensitive to phonology. It also teaches: –the diversity of languages –the interest of language structure Some problems involve French or even English.

15 15 A tool for language teaching? Guided discovery learning Example: French ma ~ mon –ma mère ~ mon école ~ mon ancienne amie –Give some examples as data –Let students induce the generalisation –Give feedback –Let them expand the generalisation to include other pronouns and la ~ l'

16 16 4. Past, present and future Past 1960s: first Linguistics Olympiad –in Moscow, then St Petersburg and Bulgaria –a UK school once sent a team to Moscow 2003 first International Linguistics Olympiad –in Bulgaria –20010 26 teams from 18 countries 2009 UKLO created

17 17 Present UKLO is part of a consortium of English- speaking countries –USA, Canada, Australia, Ireland, UK –purpose: to produce test papers –very hard! UKLO organises the competitions –and raises funds for round 2 and ILO –maybe we'll host ILO in 2013?

18 18 Future Our aim is: –to promote analytical language study in schools –NOT recruitment for BA Linguistics –NOT medals at ILO 2010 (our first year): –600 pupils, 50 schools 2011: 900 pupils, 69 schools

19 19 5. Independent and state schools Independent schools perform much better 2010, Advanced level: entrieswinners (to round 2) independent23011 state1701

20 20 So what? Well done independent schools! –Round 2 winners were really smart. But: why do state schools do so poorly? This is a major concern for UKLO: –as citizens –as fund raisers So state schools are our main target –for recruitment –for support

21 21 Our patron Christine Ohuruogu –MBE –Olympic gold-medalist, 200 metres –BA Linguistics, UCL

22 22 6. Boys and girls In 2010, boys and girls were roughly equal in numbers: –F-level: B = 68, G = 67, ? = 67 (B = G) –A-level: B = 233, G = 173 (B > G) –ILO teams: B = 4, G = 4 (B = G) BUT ILO awards: –B = 4, G = 0!

23 23 Boys and girls at ILO All countries, 2008-10 –all awards for individuals: –B = 99, G = 38 –Why? But compare the Int Maths Olympiad –2010 gold/silver: B = 144, G = 7!!! So at least girls perform better in linguistics than in maths

24 24 Something for everyone UKLO 'brings girls into science' –they're as good as boys at formal analysis –and they enjoy it. UKLO 'brings boys into languages' –they're as good as girls at analysing language –and they enjoy it. –"…we had 41 boys who took part and "battled" in earnest for 2 hours! … I feel it is another way of encouraging languages as a whole, and especially in a boys' school."

25 25 Round 2 2010

26 26 7. Age Most countries offer just one level. –so typically for Y12-13 But we offer Foundation level too. –In 2010, 14 were from Y7!! –If these pupils stay with us, they will do five more olympiads!

27 27 F-level marks x age, 2010

28 28 A-level marks x age, 2010

29 29 8. Practicalities When in 2011? –Round 1: last week! (Feb 2-7) –Round 2: March 25-27, Edinburgh –ILO: July, Pittsburgh, USA How much? –Nothing. –We depend entirely on donations. Two independent schools have donated generously.

30 30 Thank you More information –e.g. registering, preparing

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