The 14th annual installment of the International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL) recently took place in Mysore (India) with 31 countries, 44 teams and 170 participants. The contest was held in 18 different languages!

The Australian delegation brought home several medals this year: a Silver in the team contest, a Gold in the individual and a Silver in the individual.  The team from Melbourne Grammar School  (Hamish Self, Martin Lee, Tom Ryan and Max Zhang) came second in the team contest; with Sweden receiving Gold and the UK Bronze. The two medalists in the individual contest were Max Zhang (Gold) from Melbourne Grammar School and Henry Wu (Silver) from Baulkham Hills High School. The full results of the contest can be found here and the problem set here. Max Zhang also received a prize for best solution of problem 2 and Tom Ryan, also from Melbourne Grammar School, received an Honourable Mention for his performance in the individual contest. This is Australia’s best performance to date, we are immensely proud – congratulations to all!

What then are linguistics olympiads all about? They’re about solving problems that are based in languages and linguistics – and these can look quite different. There’s been problems on brain patterns, counting systems, bar codes and much more.  To see what IOL-problems look, go here. This year, the team contest involved listening to audio clips in !Xóõ  – a Khoisan language of Africa with not only tones, but also a large number of click consonants. Very difficult indeed, we’re very proud of our Australian performance. !Xóõ is spoken by 4,000+ in Botswana and has perhaps the largest inventory of speech sounds in the world. To learn more about the language visit wikipedia and/or Ethnologue.

The IOL is one of 12 International Science Olympiads for secondary school students, and has been held annually since 2003. Each year, teams of young linguists from around the world gather and test their minds against the world’s toughest puzzles in language and linguistics. The Australian delegation is selected through the Australian Computational and Linguistics Olympiad, OzCLO.

Since its beginnings in 2008, OzCLO has become a nationwide contest with over 1500 students participating in 2016. The competition challenges high-school students to develop their skills for solving linguistics problems based on fascinating real languages. No special knowledge of languages or linguistics is required, any secondary school student with analytical skills can participate! If you or your students are interested in participating, contact the organisers in your state/territory (click here for their contact details). The 2017 contest takes place in March. Students can participate online or at a local university.

Useful links:
OzCLO’s official website (Australian Computational and Linguistics Olympiad)
OzCLO contact
OzCLO updates: facebook page & twitter
IOL Official website (International Linguistics Olympiad)
IOL updates: blog, tumblr, facebook & twitter
Website of IOL 2016 in Mysore

Hedvig Skirgård is a linguistics PhD student at Australian National University and the IOL-PR chair. She blogs at humanswhoreadgrammars.blogspot.com. Dominique Estival is a researcher at the MARCS Institute, Western Sydney University. She was a co-founder of OzCLO and Chair of OzCLO 2008-2013.


Update: This post previously named only one of the schools involved. This has been corrected. 

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