About IOL

The first linguistic olympiad for secondary school students was organised in 1965 in Moscow on the initiative of Alfred Zhurinsky (1938-1991), eventually a prominent philologist but then only a fifth-year student of linguistics, and under the guidance of the mathematician Vladimir Uspensky. The Olympiad, farsightedly called Traditional since its very beginning, was regularly held at the Moscow State University from 1965 until 1982. In 1988 the Olympiad was resumed at the Moscow State Institute for History and Archives (now the Russian State University for the Humanities), and since 1989 it has been organised jointly by the two institutions. Since 1996 a mirror of Moscow's Traditional Olympiad in Linguistics has been held in Russia's northern capital by St Petersburg State University.

Linguistic contests have also been held regularly in Bulgaria since 1982, being organised by the Union of Bulgarian Mathematicians and the Ministry of Education. In more recent years analogous events were launched in Oregon (US) and the Netherlands. At the same time teams of award-holders of the Moscow Olympiad in Linguistics competed successfully in Bulgaria and vice versa, which demonstrated the potential for international co-operation in this field. Thus was born the idea of the IOL.

The following table presents a summary of the participation in the first seven instalments of the IOL (2003-2013):

Year         Venue   Countries     Teams        Participants
2003         Borovets, Bulgaria   6     9        33
2004         Moscow, Russia   7     12        45
2005         Leiden, Netherlands   9     13        50
2006        Tartu, Estonia   9     13        51
2007        St. Petersburg, Russia   9     15        61
2008        Slanchev Bryag, Bulgaria   11     16        67
2009        Wrocław, Poland   17     23        86
2010        Stockholm, Sweden   18     26        99
2011        Pittsburgh, USA   19     27        102
2012        Ljubljana, Slovenia   26     34        131
2013        Manchester, UK   26     35        138

Teams from these 35 countries have participated in at least one of the first 11 IOLs: AustraliaBrazilBulgariaCanadaChinaCzech Republic,EstoniaFinlandGermanyGreeceHungaryIndiaIrelandIsle of Man,IsraelJapanLatviaLithuaniaNetherlandsNorwayPolandRomania,RussiaSerbiaSingaporeSloveniaSouth KoreaSpainSwedenTaiwan,TurkeyUKUSAUnited Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.

Problem Committee

Since linguistic problems depend on the solver's working language and linguistic background in a way that the problems at other science olympiads do not, the preparation of the problem set for IOL is a complex and time-consuming task, involving composition, testing and reviewing of problems in all of the Olympiad working languages – a huge task that must be done well in advance, during the twelve months preceding IOL. This is the duty of the Problem Committee. The Problem Committee is a body composed of people from different countries and institutions, whose expertise in linguistic problems has been demonstrated by authorship or experience with problem selection for established national olympiads, or high scores at past editions.

If you think you have a problem, a draft or an idea that is suitable for the IOL, please submit it! Variety is very desirable at IOL and the Problem Committee will be happy to receive new ideas. If you have a good experience with linguistic problems and are willing to help us being an active member of PC, write us as well. Contact the current chair at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


General Chairs

Ivan Derzhanski, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Stanislav Gurevich, Anichkov LyceumLocal Organizing

Chair 2014

Jiang Yuqin, International Teengager Competition and Communication Center, China Education Association for International Exchange (ITCCC@CEAIE)

Program Committee Chair 2013

Stanislav Gurevich, Anichkov Lyceum

Past and Upcoming Local Organizing Chairs

Mirko Vaupotic

Neil Sheldon


Harold Somers

Public Relations Chair

Simona Klemenčič, Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Archives and Website

Patrick Littell, University of British Columbia