NACLO 2023 - North American Computational Linguistics Open competition

The open round of this year’s NACLO competition will take place on Thursday, January 26, 2023. 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.


Where can I participate?

This year, Ohio State University will run an in-person site. The open round of the contest will take place in the Student Alumni Council Room in the Ohio Union on Thursday, January 26, 2023 (9:30am-1:00pm). Well-performing students will be invited to a second round (March 16). 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.

After the competition, until 1:30pm, we will provide an optional pizza lunch and introductions to some of our current students for participants who are interested in learning more about linguistics at OSU.


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 January 23.


Parking is available in the garages next to the Ohio Union, but it may be expensive if you leave your car there for the entire time. Alternately, it is easy to pick up or drop off if someone is giving you a ride, or you can take the #2 COTA bus.


What can Ohio State do for me?

In addition to running our NACLO site, members of the Linguistics department would be pleased to support your NACLO club, team or study session! We can arrange a Zoom or in-person meeting with a member of our faculty or staff to show you how to solve NACLO problems from past years, answer your questions about the study of language, or talk to you about careers in computational linguistics. Contact


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.


Contact Information

Please contact Dr. Micha Elsner for more information.