Linguistics Olympiad 2012




Why participate in the Linguistics Olympiad?

  • Ever wanted to try deciphering an ancient script, decoding Swahili, or counting in Indonesion?
  • Now you can do it! No prior knowledge of linguistics required, just some curiosity and basic problem-solving skills.
  • Compete for a chance to go to the international competition and meet participants from all over the world.
  • And it's free!
  • Try out the problems on this page--we posted a link to solutions below (you can also download the three problems here !




What is NACLO?

If you're interested in language and enjoy problem-solving, come participate in the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad.  NACLO is a fun and educational contest  for students in grades 6-12 in which you will solve linguistics problems from a variety of languages (natural and artificial).  No prior knowledge of linguistics or any particular language is required.  All you need to bring is your curiosity and enthusiasm!

The first round of the contest will take place on Thursday, February 2, from 10am to 1pm at McGill University (Sign in starting 9.15am; Wendy Patrick Room, in Wilson Hall [map]).  Students who perform well on the first round will be invited back for a second round, to take place on March 13.  The winners of the invitational round will be eligible to represent North America at the International Linguistics Olympiad in Slovenia. More information about NACLO can be found at at the general website for NACLO or download the 2012 handbook.


Last Year

Last year Canada participated in NACLO for the first time. More than a thousand high school students from across the USA and Canada competed in the fifth annual North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad. The top 10 from Canada advanced to the invitational round. The top 4 from Canada advanced to the International Olympiad of Linguistics, held in the U.S. for the first time. 27 teams representing 19 countries competed. The test included problems about Faroese orthography, Menominee morphology, Vai syntax, and Nahuatl semantics. The Canadian team was honored as the best new team in the competition, and a Canadian had the highest score of any member of a new team.



Training Session

Curious? Want to learn more and see some example problems?

Come to our information and training session to be held on January 19, 5-7pm (Linguistics Department. Room 002 at 1085 Dr. Penfield Avenue [map]). Pizza will be served. Please RSVP if you're interested at naclo.montreal [at]

Or try some practice problems here.

Or download the  2012 handbook!



Recommended Registration: Before January 15th

Online Registration Deadline: February 1st

We also accept on-site registration if you arrive earlier (at 9.30 or earlier) on the day of the contest).

Registration is free. You can register here.


On the day of Olympiad: February 2 2012

The competition will take place at McGill University (Wendy Patrick Room, in Wilson Hall [map])

9.15am-9.45am Registration and light breakfast

10.00am-1pm Olympiad!


Who's organizing this?

The olympiad is organized by linguists at universities across the continent. You can learn more at the general NACLO website.

This is the first time that there will be a session in Montréal, by a team of linguists from McGill and UQAM:

Faculty team: Luis Alonso-Ovalle,  Heather Newell, Junko Shimoyama,   Lisa Travis,  Michael Wagner.

Student team: Aron Hirsch, Linna Jin, Jeff Klassen, Elise McClay, Gretchen McCulloch, Jozina vander Klok.

You can reach us at naclo.montreal [at]




Why is this competition only offered in English?

This will be the first time we organize this event in Québec, and it's still a pilot project. Right now, the materials for the Olympiad, which are developed by a team of linguists across North-America, are only available in English. It would be great to develop materials in French for the future, but at this point, it's English only. It'll be good practice for those who advance to the international stage, which is held in English as well. 


 Solutions to the Problems