Linguistics and English Language

Linguistics Olympiad

The UK Linguistics Olympiad is a national competition, where school pupils of all ages and abilities can compete to solve linguistic data problems

Image of a pale blue-green puzzle

What was the problem?

Linguistics is the scientific study of language and its structure, it looks at the nature of language and communication – which is integral to being human.

However, it is a subject that people don’t know much about, due to the fact that it is not currently taught in schools.

Even though school pupils may be interested in linguistics, they don't have the opportunity to learn about it until further education at University.

What did we do?

The Committee for Linguistics in Education (CLiE) aims to build bridges between linguistics and schools by exploring ways in which linguistics might contribute towards the school curriculum. 


Professor Graeme Trousdale is a member of the Committee for Linguistics in Education, which set up the UK Linguistics Olympiad (UKLO) in 2009. 

UK Linguistics Olympiad is a school-based competition, like the Maths Challenge, involving puzzles in language and linguistics. It's completely free for schools to participate. Each year, several thousand school pupils take part in UK Linguistics Olympiad and at least one team enters into the International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL).



Everybody wants people who are good at dealing with data and thinking about data and analysing it – that’s what linguistics is about

Professor Graeme TrousdaleProfessor of Cognitive Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh

What happened next?

UK Linguistics Olympiad is now getting children interested in linguistics from a very young age, with many primary school pupils participating in the competition each year. Almost 5,000 children aged 9 to 18 took part in 2018.

The UK team have had several successful runs in the International Linguistics Olympiad, and in 2018, one of the UK team members became the first person ever to get 4 gold medals in consecutive years.

In 2019, the Committee for Linguistics in Education launched the LASER campaign to make language analysis (the study of patterns in languages) part of mainstream school education.

Language Analysis in Schools: Education and Research (LASER)

Solve it can you? Speak Yoda how to | Science | The Guardian

Language columnist Lane Green attended the LASER launch event and subsequently wrote an article on teaching and learning grammar in schools.

The agony and ecstasy of grammar | Johnson | The Economist

About the researcher

Professor Graeme Trousdale (Professor of Cognitive Linguistics)


  • The British Academy
  • The British Association for Applied Linguistics
  • The Independent Schools Modern Languages Association
  • The Linguistics Association of Great Britain
  • The Philological Society

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