Linguistic Challenge

The Linguistic Challenge is a good-natured educational activity that combines analytic reasoning and cultural awareness. The objective is solving linguistic puzzles in languages one has never learned. The puzzles are of varying degrees of difficulty, but all are solvable using ordinary reasoning and analytic skills. The Linguistic Challenge originated in Russia in 1965. In 1996 Professor Thomas E. Payne of University of Oregon Department of Linguistics, had the privilege of observing the Linguistic Challenge in Moscow. Since then, Dr. Valentin Vydrin of the European University of St. Petersburg and Professor Thomas E. Payne have worked to develop an American version of the Linguistic Challenge.


The Linguistic Challenge was conceived by Russian linguist A. Zaliznyak. In 1965 the first Linguistic Challenge was held at Moscow State University. In 1996, over 450 students participated in the Moscow Linguistic Challenge and 350 in the St. Petersburg Challenge. In the Summer of 1997, Dr. Valentin Vydrine, the founder of the St. Petersburg Linguistic Challenge, was a visiting scholar in the Linguistics Department of the University of Oregon, and has volunteered to assist with the Linguistic Challenge in Eugene.

Try any of the puzzles below.

Orkhono-Yeniseyan Chickasaw Hausa
Dutch Swahili Quechua

To Puzzle Index

Source: Copyright 1998 University of Oregon Department of Linguistics