NACLO 2017 — North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad

The open round of this year’s NACLO competition will take place on January 26, 2017! Make sure to register at the official site!

What is NACLO?

Are you a high school student with a knack for languages, logic and computational thinking? Would you like to try your hand at deciphering an ancient script or deducing the logical patterns of Swahili or Hawaiian?

NACLO stands for the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad. It is a contest for high-school (and younger) students to solve linguistics problems drawn from a variety of languages. Only logic and reasoning skills are necessary; no prior knowledge of particular languages or of linguistics is required.

This year the Ohio State University will again be a local site. The open round of the contest will take place on Thursday, January 26, 2017. Well-performing students will be invited to a second round to be held on March 9. The top students in the invitational round will have a chance to participate in the International Linguistics Olympiad in the summer. More information about NACLO can be found at the national NACLO site.


Participation is free. Students who are interested in can register at the NACLO registration site. Register early to be assured of a seat. Registrations will still be accepted, provided that space is available, up until Thursday, January 26.

Where is the OSU site for the contest?

The competition will be held in the Computational Linguistics Lab in the Department of Linguistics, which is currently located on the second floor of Ohio Stadium East, 1961 Tuttle Park Place (yes, under the football stadium!). Enter on the east side of the stadium (the campus side, not the river side) through the door that says Department of Linguistics. Visitor parking is available in the surface lot next to the stadium (pay in advance at the pay stations) or across the street at the Tuttle Park Place Garage (the Lane Avenue Garage is another option if Tuttle is full).

When should I arrive?

The contest starts at 10 a.m. sharp and goes until 1 p.m. on Thursday, January 26. Please arrive early, at about 9:30 a.m., as we will go over the rules prior to the start of the contest. After the contest, there will be refreshments and a discussion of opportunities for studying linguistics and computational linguistics at Ohio State.

What is the competition schedule?

  • 9 am: competition room opens
  • 9:30 am: all contestants should arrive by this time
  • 10 am: competition starts
  • 1 pm: competition ends
  • 1-2pm: pizza lunch; OSU linguists will be available to discuss summer programs and our undergraduate major

Sample question

Abma is an Austronesian language spoken in parts of the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu by around 8,000 people. Carefully study these Abma sentences, then answer the following questions. Note that there is no separate word for the or he in these Abma sentences.

  • Mwamni sileng. (He drinks water.)
  • Nutsu mwatbo mwamni sileng. (The child keeps drinking water.)
  • Mwerava Mabontare mwisib. (He pulls Mabontare down.)
  • Mabontare mwisib. (Mabontare goes down.)
  • Mweselkani tela mwesak. (He carries the axe up.)
  • Mwelebte sileng mwabma. (He brings water.)
  • Mabontare mworob mwesak. (Mabontare runs up.)
  • Sileng mworob. (The water runs.)
  • sesesrakan (teacher)

Use the above information to translate the following sentence:

  • The teacher carries the water down.

If you came up with Sesesrakan mweselkani sileng mwisib, this is the competition for you!

More sample questions for practice are available here.

Local organizers

Please contact us if you have questions at:

Ohio State’s hosting activities are sponsored by the Department of Linguistics and the Department of Computer Science & Engineering, the Student Linguistic Association and the OSU chapter of the Association of Computing Machinery Committee on Women.