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The UK Linguistics Olympiad is critically short of markers, so this message is an attempt to persuade you to volunteer to mark a few scripts. More details follow.

UKLO runs a competition for school children each year in which the children solve linguistics problems – data from an unfamiliar language which they have to analyse so as to produce forms that go beyond the data presented. The problems range over the core of our subject: phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and some problems deal with language change and comparison. The competition is called the Linguistics Olympiad, so children learn what linguistics is and a significant number of schools even run Linguistics Clubs for the enthusiasts.

The competition is offered at four levels: Breakthrough, Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced. The first three are taken under relaxed conditions and are marked by teachers, but the Advanced competition is marked by our team of unpaid volunteer markers. In total about 5,000 children take part each year, of whom nearly 2,000 take the Advanced test. The reason for this message is that our marking capacity at present is only about 1,500.

We have a portal that manages the process reasonably well, so what we’re asking you to do is:

  • to commit on the portal to marking a number of scripts that you decide. Most new markers start with 20, which would typically take 2-3 hours depending on how fast you are and how much you get diverted into solving the problems yourself! (They’re all really interesting.)
  • to download from the portal the scripts assigned to you, and to mark them using a detailed set of solutions and marking scheme that we provide.
  • to upload your scores to the portal.

One major element in our marking arrangements is the Markathon, where a linguistics department arranges an event for staff and students to mark scripts together, plus pizza or chocolates. For this we need a contact person to make the local arrangements.

The crucial dates are February 11-20:

  • February 11th, at the end of the competition week (during which the Advanced competition may be scheduled on any day), by which time your scripts should be available for marking.
  • February 20th, our deadline for receiving your marks, giving us time to process them before the announcement on 27th.

You don’t need high-level expertise in linguistics in order to mark, but you will find the problems interesting if linguistics is your thing.

If you’d like to help, please register as a marker on the portal: If you need guidance, please write to, which will reach Kazune Sato, our Marking Coordinator.

We really appreciate the help we already get from the academic community, but we need a little more now, please.

Dick Hudson (Chair of UKLO)

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