What is NACLO? :: Where is it held? :: When does it take place? :: How can I participate? :: What should I do to prepare? :: Other questions

The first round has concluded. The invitational round will be open to qualified students. Stay tuned.

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 Beijing 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:

  1. Since "tarehe" occurs in all the examples (it probably means "date" or some such) we can ignore it.
  2. 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.
  3. "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.
  4. 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 the Haldeman building, room 046.

If you do not live near the Hanover area, you may want to check out the other university and high school 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 30, 2014 from 10 am to 1 pm. Please plan to arrive 30 minutes before the test begins.

How can I participate?

Regsitration is open for 2014. It 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 any background in linguistics or computational linguistics -- just enthusiasm for problem-solving and puzzles. The test can be reasonably challenging, so we encourage you to practice solving some problems from previous contests.

Other questions

Check out the main NACLO website for detailed information and resources, or send us an e-mail.