6th International Olympiad in Linguistics


Welcome to the official website of the Sixth International Olympiad in Theoretical, Mathematical and Applied Linguistics.

The International Olympiad in Linguistics, known to insiders as IOL, is an international event with steadily growing popularity, which is aimed at high-school level students. The Olympiad has for goal to introduce students to linguistics, in its richness of sub-fields and variety of problems. As linguistics is a subject which is not taught in most high-schools across the world, the need for such events as the IOL is obvious.

Bulgaria was host of the First International Olympiad in Theoretical, Mathematical and Applied Linguistics back in 2003. Since, without interruption, IOL has been held in Moscow (Russia), the Netherlands, Estonia, Saint-Petersburg (Russia). Hosting for second time IOL, Bulgaria reaffirms its commitment to the Olympiad the will to perpetuate it.

IOL is a direct descendent of the Olympiads in linguistics organized locally in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg (then in the U.S.S.R.) and Bulgaria, for more than 40 years now. It is thanks to the energy, will and talent of Alfred Naumovich Zhurinskiy (Альфред Наумович Журинский in Russian) who was the initiator and author of the problems for the very first Olympiad in Linguistics, held in Moscow in 1965.

The kind of problems which students should expect to encounter at the olympiad is very wide ranged. These scale from problems concerning the phonetic level of organization of languages, through historical linguistics, to syntax and even artificial languages, which are of some interest to science. Linguistic problems are a scaled down and some how idealized copy of real-life linguistic work. However, no special knowledge in linguistics or of many languages is needed -- linguistic problems are peculiar in that they are self-sufficied and self-contained. This means they can be solved only by applying logic and being watchful to every detail.

In general linguistics has for goal to uncover and formulate the hidden underlying rules and laws that govern language and its use in the life of humans. Although in reality some of these rules are very complex and there is much discussion going on them, linguistic problems for the purposes of contests, are chosen so that they represent a neutral point of view, and introduce students to fundamental matters in science.

IOL has an individual contest, at which each students solves five problems within six hours. Each problem is graded independently and is worth the same mark. The team contest can also feature several problems, but typically there is only one problem, of great difficulty, which the contestants solve in teams of four. All contestants work in language of their choice -- the problems are translated into the chosen language, and the Jury marks the solutions without their being translated by the team leaders (which is partly for security reasons).

Although at the heart of IOL lies its scientific nature, it is also a great opportunity for students and their team leaders from an increasing number of countries to have time together, which is a very interesting personal and linguistic experience. It is our hope that the Sixth IOL will bring joy to all contestants and people involved, and that they will be enriched by this experience!

Good luck to all!