I regularly go a little overboard when designing puzzles for the German Olympiad of Linguistics, but for one of this year’s puzzles, I really outnerded myself. I designed a True Type Font for the writing system Afaka, which was developed for the creole language Ndyuka. It was conceived in 1910 by Afáka Atumisi and is named after its inventor. It’s a syllabary, partially based on a rebus system.
For example, the symbol representing the syllable /fo/ shows four vertical lines. And there is an Afaka word pronounced “fo”, which means “four” (yes, it’s cognate with the English word).
There is a preliminary Unicode sheet with codes, but the writing system hasn’t been fully developed and codified so far. Accordingly, my font is also only a preliminary solution to writing Ndyuka in Afaka script. But it’s great for playing around, and designing puzzles! You can download the font here.
I am heavily involved in organizing the German Olympiad of Linguistics each year (Deutsche Linguistik-Olympiade, DOL). I am primarily responsible for designing, curating and testing puzzles for the three rounds of competitions we host. In order to gain more support, we got together to found a “Verein”, the kind of institution that makes Germany go round. It’s been a rocky ride so far, but our students managed to collect some major prizes during this year’s IOL, so it’s all worth it! Take a look at the official DOL website here!
Last weekend, we had the last round of the German Olympiad of Linguistics (it’s really the selection of the German teams to the International Olympiad of Linguistics, but that’s even more verbose). Designing that last set of puzzles in time hasn’t been easy, but I had awesome support from my colleagues Ruben Van de Vijver and Johanna Mattissen, who gave me very nice datasets for the construction of puzzles from Dutch and Nivkh. My student Alina Schünemann with her friend Augusta Ogechi Chukwu designed a wonderful puzzle on Igbo. And my student assistants tried and tested them. If you think you can best the high school students who cracked these puzzles in well below two hours (and if your German is sufficient), you can try your hand at them (solutions to follow soon).
I should have gotten around to this earlier, but here goes: Together with my colleagues at ZAS, Nathalie Topaj and André Meinunger, I organized the selection of the German team for the International Olympiad of Linguistics again this year, even though there it won’t take place this year.There is a short report on the ZAS homepage.
We have always been dealing with scarce resources, but this year, of course, also had to figure in the pandemic. We held all three rounds of competitions online. I missed talking to the students in present. Even so, I think we all had great fun with the puzzles. I had lots of help from colleagues in designing the puzzles, in particular Qiang Xia, Johanna Kimmerl, Christian Döhler and Sebastian Nordhoff, so we ended up with a fantastic range of languages and phenomena. I’m planning to make all puzzles accessible to the public eventually.