What is NACLO?NACLO is a computational linguistics olympiad for students in grades 6-12 studying in North America. It is a written test containing linguistic puzzles. Students take the test individually. There are two rounds of the competition. The first is an open round held in January. The open round test consists of six to ten problems, and lasts 3 hours in total. Those who do well on the open round will be invited to compete in a second 'invitational' round in March. The top performing students from the US and Canada are then selected to represent their countries in the International Linguistics Olympiad in Bulgaria later in the year.
Here is a sample puzzle from one of the previous years.
The solution does not require any knowledge of Swahili! Here's how you may go about it:
- Since "tarehe" occurs in all the examples (it probably means "date" or some such) we can ignore it.
- The similarity of "Disemba", "Aprili", and "Oktoba" with the English words for the months is a good indicator of what they are. But you don't need to rely on this similarity. Notice that "Aprili" occurs in two examples, as does "April" in the English set, "Disemba" and "December" both occur once, and "Oktoba" and "October" three times.
- "tano" occurs in all the October phrases, so it must correspond to the 5th. From this, we can also infer than the second word in the Swahili phrases is the numerical date. So "tatu" is 3, and "pili" and "nne" are 2 or 4, but it's not yet clear which is which.
- The last word in the phrases must therefore denote the day of
the week. However, note that it contains the numbers
("jumatano", etc.) that occur at the beginning of the phrases. It is therefore likely that the Swahili days
of the week are denoted by numbers -- the question is, what is the
correspondence between the Swahili numbers and the English days?
"jumanne" in April is obviously Tuesday. Since "nne" is either 2 or 4, this means Monday is either day 1 or day 3.
But looking at the October phrases, it is clear that the word for Monday has to be either "jumapili", "jumatatu", or "jumatano". We know that none of the three can be the word for day 1 (since "pili" is 2 or 4, "tatu" is 3, and "tano" is 5). So the only possibility is that Monday is day 3 ("jumatatu"), and consequently, "nne" is 4, "pili" is 2, "jumapili" is Sunday, "jumatano" is Wednesday, and since Saturday is day 1, "mosi" must be the word for 1.
Where is it held?The Dartmouth test site, serving students in and around the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire and Vermont, will be on the Dartmouth College campus in Sudikoff 213 (venue updated).
If you do not live near the Hanover area, you may want to check out the other testing sites across North America, listed here. Sites within a few hours of Dartmouth include Boston, Schenectady, and Montreal.
When does it take place?The open round will be held on January 29, 2014 from 10 am to 1 pm. Plan to arrive 30 minutes before the test begins. If you have not registered online, you should arrive by 9:15 am.
How can I participate?Regsitration is free, and open to any student studying in grades 6-12 in the US. Register here, and select Dartmouth College as your test site.
What should I do to prepare?You do not need a background in linguistics or computer science -- only enthusiasm for problem-solving and puzzles. The test can be reasonably challenging, so we encourage you to practice solving some problems from previous contests. Feel free to contact us for advice or resources.
Other questionsCheck out the main NACLO website for detailed information and resources, or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.