2011 Linguistics Olympiad getting underway

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Ben Piché has written to let us know that the 2011 International Linguistics Olympiad, hosted this year by the USA, at CMU in Pittsburgh, is getting underway. Ben, one of our UMass linguistics alumni, is presiding over the admissions desk at the IOL (note the international word-order). Ben writes:

We're still setting up here on campus, and the competition hasn't formally begun yet, but we're hard at work scheduling programs and activities for the participants. We hope that this will be the best IOL yet!

I would add: it will be good for everyone interested in language and linguistics to help find ways to alert as many high school students as possible to the existence of the Olympiad and to encourage them to participate — it's a great way for young people to find out about the existence of linguistics and have challenging fun in the process. For those in North America, the sponsor is NACLO, the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad. Their site has information about the most recently completed Olympiad and general information about participating.

Cool fact #1: The North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO) won the Linguistics Society of America's Linguistics, Language, and the Public award for 2011.

Cool fact #2: In Aleksandr Kibrik's 'How I became a linguist' essay written for his Linguist-of-the-day appearance in this year's Linguist List fund drive, you can read about the origins of the Linguistic Olympiad in Moscow in 1965.


  1. Lugubert said,

    July 26, 2011 @ 2:59 am

    I was taught that an olympiad is a period of four years, and that the event is olympic games.

  2. Barbara Partee said,

    July 26, 2011 @ 4:35 am

    @Lugubert — Yes, you're certainly right for the central use of the term. As Wikipedia says, under "Other Uses" at the end: "Outside the IOC the term is still often used to indicate the games themselves, a usage that is strictly erroneous (as an Olympiad is the time period between games) but widely accepted nevertheless. It is also used to indicate international competitions in fields other than physical sports. This includes international science olympiads, such as the International Mathematical Olympiad and the International Linguistics Olympiad and their associated national qualifying exams (e.g., the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad or the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad), and also events in mindsports, such as the Science Olympiad, Mindsport Olympiad, Chess Olympiad and Computer Olympiad. In these cases Olympiad is used to indicate a regular event of international competition; it does not necessarily indicate a four-year period."

  3. J. W. Brewer said,

    July 26, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

    The IOC has an extensive history of threatening/bringing lawsuits against unaffiliated proprietors of events named, e.g., "the X Olympics." At least in the U.S., they theoretically also have better-than-standard trademark rights in the word OLYMPIAD, but I wonder if in practice using "Olympiad" rather than "Olympics" for your competition reduces the risk of incurring their wrath, with the usage for academic competitions thus being in part an artifact of risk management. The usage seems lexicalized/natural for me, but that may just be because I competed in my state's Science Olympiad back in high school in the early 1980's. (According to this http://soinc.org/history, our little event in Delaware was somehow the inspiration for the concept subsequently going national.)

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