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XXI International Linguistics Olympiad

The International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL) is one of the International Science Olympiads, a contest for high school students where they have to solve complex problems. IOL’s problems involve different languages of the world and demand reasoning, linguistic intuition and general knowledge to understand and work with different linguistic phenomena. It is also thought of as the final level of the different National Linguistics Olympiads.

The topics involve different levels of linguistic structures: be it the sounds of the language, the meanings of words and expressions, the grammatical structures, the writing systems and the mental and social dynamics regarding languages. The contest involves solving self-sufficient linguistics problems, where the participant has to analyze data and understand features of an unknown language – based not on proficiency in languages or theoretical knowledge, but rather on one’s own analytical, communicational and cultural capacities. If you want to understand better, take a look at the sample problems. In particular, there is a great emphasis on indigenous and minoritary languages from all across the globe.

The participants are members of delegations sent by accredited organizations of National Linguistics Olympiads, consisting of one or two teams of four students each, normally the winners of the corresponding national contest. They compete in two rounds: an individual round consisting of five problems to be solved in six hours, and a team round consisting of one larger problem to be solved in three or four hours for the whole team. In the end, the best performances receive medals, trophies and honorable mentions. If you want to understand more, you can start with our FAQ.

The event happens yearly in one of the participating countries, lasting five to seven days, usually at the end of July and beginning of August. In addition to the competitions, students also engage in informal games and plays, academic activities involving linguistics, activities showing the culture and the lands of the host country, as well as gatherings and celebrations to bring the participants together. In addition to the main event among students and delegations, the IOL also promotes activities aiming at bringing tools to local school teachers as well as gatherings aiming at public policies and private initiatives involving education, language and diversity.

The 21st edition of IOL is going to happen on July 23-31, 2024, in the city of Brasilia, Brazil – for the first time in the southern hemisphere and in Latin America.

Starting the third decade of IOL’s life, we mean to bring the Linguistics Olympiad more and more to the global south, making it even more multilateral and multicultural.

In a land of fire on the ground and river in the air, inspired by the qualities of the Uiraçu and through the arms of these fighting people with such diverse origins, we offer you all a strong embrace. Welcome!

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