Information for Students

  • What is NACLO?

    NACLO is a computational linguistics competiton. The format is a written test with linguistic puzzles which you solve and then explain your reasoning for that solution. There are two rounds of the competition. The first is an open round, and if you do well on it you will be invited to compete in the invitational round.

  • Who can participate?

    NACLO is designed for middle and high school students residing in North America (6th-12th grade). If you are not yet in 6th grade, and would still like to participate in NACLO, please contact
    If you do not live in North America, you may still be able to participate in a linguistics olympiad - please check our list of international competitions to see if your country hosts a similar competition.

  • When is the competition?

    The tentative dates are given on the our main page.

  • How do I register?

    You may register on this page.

  • Where can I participate?

    There are contest sites all throughout the United States and Canada at which you can participate. You have two main options for selecting a contest site. You can compete at one of the universities listed here, or your school can host a competiton.
    In order for your school to host a competition, you must find a teacher who is willing to sponsor the competition. The duties involved in hosting a competition are listed in the handbook.

  • What can I do to prepare for the contest?

    We have posted practice problems as well as previous olympiads here. If you are interested in researching more in linguistics we have a suggested reading list, which you may find useful.

  • How can I get directions to my contest site?

    You can find links to your hosting university's homepage here.

  • How do I cancel/change my registration information?

    If you would like to cancel or change your registration information, please contact our webmaster at gm [at] pangeon [dot] com

  • What problem types should I expect?

    You may encounter the following problem types; however, this list is not exhaustive, and you may also get problems of other types. The problems will contain all information required for solving them, and you do not need any specialized linguistic knowledge.

    Translation problems: A problem includes a set of sentences in a foreign language and their translations into English, which may be in order or out of order. Your task is to learn as much as possible from these translations and then translate other given sentences to or from English. Note that the foreign language may have "tricky" structure and grammar. For example, German sentences often end in verbs. Japanese people talk differently about their family and about someone else's family. Some languages do not use articles or any equivalent of "to be." Others treat animate and inanimate objects differently. Be prepared to figure out these unusual features.

    Number problems: A problem includes foreign sentences that describe basic arithmetic facts, such as "six times four is twenty-four," and your task is to figure out how to translate different numbers and expressions. Some languages use bases other than ten; others use different words for the same number depending on the objects being counted, etc.

    Writing systems: Your task is to figure out how a particular writing system works, and then use it to write out a given text, such as an ancient inscription. Some languages are written right to left or top to bottom, others do not use vowels, etc.

    Calendar systems: Your task is to figure out what calendar was used by a particular civilization based on sentences that refer to it.

    Formal problems: In this context, "formal" means that you have to build a logical model of a language phenomenon. For example, a transformation rule may say "to convert an active voice sentence to passive voice, make the object of the former sentence the subject of the latter one, convert the verb to passive by using an appropriate form of the verb "to be" with the past participle of the verb, and add "by" before the word that was the subject of the former sentence." If we apply this rule to "Maya ate an apple," we get "An apple was eaten by Maya."

    Phonological problems: Your task is to figure out the relationship between the sounds of a language and its writing system.

    Computational problems: Your task is to develop a procedure to perform a particular linguistic task in a way that can be carried out by a computer.

    Other types: Deciphering kinship systems, transcribing spoken dialog, associating sentences with images, and many other types.

Questions about the site? Email gm [at] pangeon [dot] com