International Linguistics Olympiad

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I'd like to draw your attention to the International Linguistics Olympiad's "Call for Donations and Sponsorships".

From the appeal:

Linguistics Olympiads are contests for high school students that exercise skills in logical and analytical thinking using linguistic data. Puzzles are self-contained and require no prior knowledge of languages or linguistics.

There have been eight IOL contests since 2003 in Bulgaria (2003, 2008), Russia (2004, 2007), The Netherlands (2005), Estonia (2006), Poland (2009), and Sweden (2010).

In 2010 twenty six teams from eighteen countries participated. Countries that have participated at least once are Countries Australia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, UK, and USA.

IOL 2011 will be held on July 24-30 at Carnegie Mellon University. As the host country, we provide room and board for one team and one coach from each country. Expenses will be around $60,000.

I plan to make a donation, and I hope that you will too.

A sample of past problems is available here.


  1. Brett R said,

    May 27, 2011 @ 9:07 am

    I'm shocked to see no Canadian participation.

  2. Lori Levin said,

    May 27, 2011 @ 9:37 am

    Although this version of the web site does not say so, we have obtained permission from Jean Berko Gleason to use the wugs in the IOL logo. The acknowledgment to Jean Berko Gleason will be added.

  3. Lori Levin said,

    May 27, 2011 @ 9:38 am

    Canada will have a team at the IOL this year. Canada has been participating in NACLO (North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad) since 2007.

    Other new countries this year are Armenia, Brazil, and Vietnam.

  4. Sally Thomason said,

    May 27, 2011 @ 10:26 am

    If you donate on line, as I did a couple of hours ago, you get to the general Carnegie Mellon University donations page. In the box where it asks where your donation should go, click on "other"; then, for "designation", type in NACLO — that stands for the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad — rather than International Linguistics Olympiad, which is what I did (I discovered my mistake too late). My donation will get to the right place, but maybe only because I emailed Lori Levin to alert her to the donation.

    It's an excellent cause! Do consider donating.

  5. Jerzy said,

    May 27, 2011 @ 11:13 am

    Thank you for sharing this! It almost makes me wish I was still in high school :) I've donated and will enjoy playing around with the past problems.
    Are there other good sources of such problems? For example, I know there are books of practice problems for math olympiads — does anyone know whether there are similar books of linguistics puzzles?

  6. @boris_tweets said,

    May 27, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this. This is awesome!

  7. Lori Levin said,

    May 27, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

    Dragomir Radev, the program chair of the North American Comptutational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO) is preparing a book of problems. Books of problems are available in Russian. (The concept of a linguistics Olympiad originated in Russia in the 1960's.) Ivan Derzhansky has also prepared a book of problems, but I don't know if they are in English or Bulgarian.

  8. Mark Liberman said,

    May 27, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

    In addition to the ILO-style problems, there are quite a few sources Out There of more traditional linguistics problem sets. Two worth special note are the OSU Language Files (from here), and Ann Farmer & Richard Demers, A Linguistics Workbook.

  9. Rubrick said,

    May 27, 2011 @ 4:31 pm

    I believe Dragomir Radev is the recipient of the prestigious "Linguist whose name is most likely to be adopted by a video game character" award.

  10. dragomir "super mario von voldemort" radev said,

    May 27, 2011 @ 5:42 pm

    NACLO is the organization that runs the national contests in the USA and Canada. See . Yes, as Lori said, a book (in English) with problems and solutions will likely appear within the next 12 months. We are hoping to use it as another fundraising device for NACLO. We are also looking for volunteers to adapt/translate a large number of problems that were written in Bulgarian and other languages.

  11. Alison said,

    May 27, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

    As a teen who has participated in NACLO for the last three years, I wanted to say thanks for posting this and even bigger thanks to anyone who has donated.

  12. Nightstallion said,

    May 28, 2011 @ 4:07 am

    I'd have love to participate in something like this, but it was founded when I was already almost finished with school… :(

  13. Oskar said,

    May 28, 2011 @ 10:36 am

    A while ago I came upon this site containing similar puzzles, and I found them delightful! The easy ones you could work your way through, but the harder ones are no joke.

    I would absolutely love it if one of you brilliant language loggers dedicated a post or two to going through some problems and analyzing them properly. If you accept requests for posts, that's certainly mine.

  14. Dragomir Radev said,

    May 31, 2011 @ 8:27 am

    Oskar – which problem do you want to hear about first?

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