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What is a linguistics Olympiad?

Even though Linguistics is not a common subject in most schools, Linguistics Olympiads for school students are gradually increasing in popularity in many countries. During a Linguistics Olympiad participants are given a set of problems, which they have to solve in a fixed amount of time. Problems contain some sort of data (words, sentences, texts, etc.), usually in a language unfamiliar to all of the participants, which they have to analyse in order to solve some tasks often involving translation to and from the given language. See some of the examples in the How to Prepare section.

It is a common misconception that Linguistics is about learning languages. Linguistics is the scientific study of human language and the general patterns across languages. For solving Linguistics problems, no prior knowledge of any foreign language or linguistics is required (although it might help). Linguistics problems are self-sufficient. In order to solve them only the data in the problem as well as logical and analytical thinking are needed.

The first Linguistics Olympiads originated in Moscow in 1965 through the efforts of many talented linguists, such as A.A.Zaliznyak and A.N.Zhurinskiy. Over the years, other countries started to organize Linguistics Olympiads and, eventually, this resulted in the forthcoming of the International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL).

The first IOL was held in 2003 in Bulgaria and during the time of its existence school students from 40 countries had the chance to participate in it. So far, Latvia has participated in all of the IOLs and has brought home 11 medals (1 gold, 3 silver and 7 bronze), 2 team contest trophies (1 gold and 1 silver), 5 best-solution prizes, and 7 honourable mentions.