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Online Olympiad in Linguistics 2020

Problems & Answers

Each problem is worth 20 points.



This round features problems on four languages from two major language families. Niger–Congo languages are spoken in Africa by more than half a billion people. There are around 1,500 Niger–Congo languages, making it the world's largest language family by number of languages. Just a little behind is the Austronesian family, comprising more than 1,200 languages with over 300 million native speakers.

Niger–Congo languages
Austronesian languages

1. Lipreading

In the 20 videos below, a man says the following Hawaiian words (given here in random order):

hoʻokipa, hilinaʻi, kāmau, hānau, pāʻani, holoholo, pule, moʻolelo, kupuna, mahiʻai, hoʻokele, kaona, hoʻokupu, mahina, welo, paʻakai, mālie, pele, kahua, pilina.

Task. Match each video with the corresponding word:

(!) Hawaiian is one of the official languages of the US state of Hawaii, which is located in the Pacific Ocean. It is an Austronesian language with about 24,000 native speakers.

The ʻ symbol represents a glottal stop—the sound in the middle of uh-oh. A bar over a vowel means that the vowel is long.

2. Ciluba

The form below can be used to translate two-word English phrases into Ciluba. However, only one word of the translation will be displayed—the other word will be replaced with an asterisk.

When you have entered two words, either click the button to the right of the input field or press Enter.

Task. Translate the following word combinations into Ciluba:

(!) Ciluba is a Niger–Congo language spoken by around 7 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The letters ä, ǐ, and ǔ denote specific vowels of the language.

3. Ibibio

The form below can be used to listen to recordings of 20 Ibibio words. Each word is pronounced in its respective recording twice. You can listen to a recording by entering its number (1 through 20) and either pressing Enter or clicking on the button to the right of the input field. You can also listen to several recordings in sequence: just enter all their numbers in the field, separated by spaces.

Below you can find translations of these 20 words, grouped according to the particular way each word is pronounced:

  1. to fall off, to become in need of, expanse, first-born son, flock;
  2. dust, woven basket, sleeping room;
  3. this, priest;
  4. to belch, to beat down, circle dance, first;
  5. small shrimp, shield, rubber tree;
  6. path in bush, ant, jar.

According to their pronunciation, some of the words can alternatively be grouped as follows:

  1. first-born son, woven basket;
  2. priest, circle dance;
  3. expanse, first, ant;
  4. to fall off, to belch;
  5. dust, small shrimp;
  6. flock, shield, jar.

Task. Determine the correct correspondences:

(!) Ibibio is a Niger–Congo language. It is spoken natively by several million Ibibio people in Nigeria.

4. Tetun

Below are some Tetun words:

aan, aas, aman, ami, bolu, emi, hadomi, ha'i, ha'u, ida, ina, kapas, kbuka, labarik, makfeto, makrare, mane, manen, nare, na'in, nia, oo, ratene, resin, rosak, ruanulu, sanulu, sei, sira, tolu.

Using the form below, you can enter a sequence of words and check whether that sequence is a valid Tetun sentence or not. If your sequence is valid, the form will give you English translations of every word (or word combination) in the sentence.

Additionally, you can substitute one (and only one) word in a sentence with an asterisk *. The form will then tell you the number of Tetun words that it can accept as a substitute for the asterisk to produce a grammatical Tetun sentence.

When you have entered a sequence, either click the button to the right of the input field or press Enter.

Apart from spaces between words, you can only use lowercase Latin letters and apostrophes (the regular ’ or the typewriter apostrophe '). An apostrophe indicates a glottal stop, which is a specific consonant of Tetun. Any capital letters will automatically be lowercased. All other characters, including punctuation marks, will be ignored.

Task. Translate the following sentences into Tetun. Some of the sentences may have more than one translation. You only need to provide one of them.

(!) Tetun is an Austronesian language spoken by around 500,000 people on the island of Timor.

Answer key: hideshow