NACLO at Yale

Are you a 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? If so, then you should participate in NACLO!

What is NACLO?

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

This year Yale University will serve as a local site for NACLO, so this means that you will be able to participate in the competition in New Haven. The first (Open) round of the contest will take place on Thursday, January 28, 2017. Students who perform well in the Open round will be invited to take part in the second (Invitational) round to be held on March 9, 2017. The top students in the invitational round from across North America will have a chance to participate in the International Linguistics Olympiad in Dublin, Ireland in July/August of 2017. More information about NACLO can be found at the national NACLO site.

Information Session

The Yale Department of Linguistics will be hosting training/information sessions to provide information about NACLO and to allow students to try out practice problems. These sessions will take place on Sundays between 2:00pm and 4:00pm on October 9, October 30, November 13, December 4, and January 22. The location will be on the Yale campus in Dow Hall (370 Temple Street), Room 215. If you plan to attend any of these sessions, please register at this site.


Thanks to the generous support of the sponsors, participation in NACLO is free. Students who are interested in taking part will however need to 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 Wednesday, January 25.

Where is the Yale site for the contest?

The competition will take place from 10am to 1pm on Thursday, January 26th on the Yale campus. Further details about the location will be forthcoming as the date approaches.

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.