Algorithms and Linguistics

weekly problemfun facts in linguistics

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About the "Algorithms and linguistics" project


Each year, we witness advances in computer science that affect other fields of science and technology, and lead to fundamental new discoveries, from deciphering the human genome to understanding the structure of the universe. Many people however still think of computer science as merely programming. We are developing materials that will help school students to understand the challenges, techniques, and possible careers in computer science. In particular, we believe that one way to learn about computational thinking is to solve fun problems and puzzles based on algorithms and related math principles. We also believe that more students will become interested in computer science if we tie it to problems in various fields outside the computer science itself, such as natural sciences, arts, sports, entertainment, and society.


Algorithms and Linguistics


We are currently developing materials focused on two areas of computer science: algorithms and computational linguistics. The initial goal is to create unplugged materials, that is, puzzles solvable with pencil and paper, which do not require programming. We also plan to produce short articles, illustrations, and video clips that will help students learn about algorithms and linguistics. We will provide this materials on-line and integrate related activities into the FLL robotic competitions. Specifically, we will offer puzzles and mini-contests during the dead time of the robotic competitions.

The project team comes from the organizing committee of the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad. It is based on a contest that has originated in Russia, and it is now gaining ground in the United States and Canada due to the leadership of Carnegie Mellon and the University of Michigan. We will build upon the experience of the Computational Linguistics Olympiads and develop materials on the application of computer science to other fields.


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The Project Team




Lori Levin (Carnegie Mellon University)

Eugene Fink (Carnegie Mellon University)

Dragomir R. Radev (University of Michigan)




Daniel Freeman (Carnegie Mellon University)

Chelsea Mafrica (University of Pittsburgh)


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About Linguistics


If you have studied a foreign language at school, you are already familiar with some linguistics facts. While the main purpose of any language is effective communications, different languages use different mechanisms to achieve it. They use different alphabets, different verb tenses, different noun cases, different punctuation, different use of articles, and so on.


Linguists study not only individual languages and their special features, but also similarities, differences, and relationships among languages. They look at what makes up each language, such as sounds, words, and rules for forming sentences. They also study how people learn and use languages, and how languages appear, evolve, change over time, and sometimes disappear. Some of the challenges in the study of languages is as follows.


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Algorithms problems


We have just started work on algorithmic problems and puzzles, and the current list is very small. We will be posting a few new problems every month.


Linguistics problems


We have just started work on linguistics problems and puzzles, and the current list is very small. We will be posting a few new problems every month.


Winnie-the-Pooh and an electronic encyclopedia - Problem     Solution


Winnie-the-Pooh and a spelling tutor - Problem     Solution


You may also find a lot of problems in the Linguistics Challenge library.


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Related Links


FLL - First Lego League

NACLO - North American Computational Linguistics Olypmiad

USACO - United States of America Computing Olympiad

USAMO - United States of America Mathematical Olympiad

MathCounts - Mathematics Club abd Competition

CS Unplugged - Teaching computer science without a computer


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Algorithms and Linguistics

We post a new problem every week or two, and reveal its solution two weeks later. The difficulty of these problems varies from week to week; some are quite easy and some are very hard. Try them out.

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Algorithms and Linguistics

The "fun fact" collection includes short articles about various linguistics facts. We hope that you will find them interesting and amusing. You may also casually mention them in conversations with friends, to show how smart and educated you are.

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