BYU North American Computational Linguistics Open Competition 2024
NACLO is an abbreviation for the North American Computational Linguistics Open Competition. It is a fun and educational contest for high school (and younger) students that has them solve linguistics problems drawn from a variety of languages (natural and artificial). Though no prior knowledge of particular languages or of linguistics is required, a good knowledge of logic, reasoning, and problem solving skills is helpful.
The first round of NACLO competition is held locally at various locations in the U.S. and Canada. Students who score well on the test advance to a second invitational round of competition.
The Computational Linguistics Open Competition is a worldwide movement which began in Moscow in the 1960's. The U.S. first entered the competition in 1998. Teams from many other places of the world, including a team of top-scoring students from the U.S. NACLO, compete in the worldwide championship.
In 2022 over 1,100 high school students from across the USA and Canada competed in the annual North American Computational Linguistics Open Competition. The 2022 competions featured problems about the Avoiuli Bislama, Turkish, Iñupiaq, Icétôd, Tseltal, Cornish, and Ende languages as well as computational topics, such as text summarization and bagged/Wickel grapheme parsing. The top 10% students advanced to the invitational round, a more difficult four-hour test. The top eight NACLO winners from the U.S. advanced to the International Olympiad of Linguistics, held in Castletown, Isle of Man. Further details are available in this press release.
Participate this year!
After a Covid pause since 2020, BYU will resume hosting a local session of the NACLO competition in 2023. If you're a high school student (or even a middle school student) you can participate in the competition here at BYU. To find out more, consult the "Local information" menu above. When you're ready to register, click on the button below.
The BYU local competition is being sponsored by the BYU Department of Linguistics. BYU has large and active linguistics programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. For more information, see our department website here.
- Where: The competition will be held on January 25, 2024 in the Department of Linguistics conference room (room 4068) on the 4th floor of the Joseph F. Smith Building (JFSB) at BYU. Parking instructions will be sent to registered participants.
- When: The test itself will take place between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Participants will need to arrive by 9:30 a.m. to have time to check in, get seated, etc.
- Bring: your own black-ink pen and pencils; we will supply paper. No calculators, cell phones, or any other electronic devices are allowed; their use will be grounds for disqualification.
- Light snacks are permissible, but please be considerate: no "noisy" or "smelly" foods. Punch or soda containing dye are not allowed. We will supply some light refreshments as well.
- Contestants arriving late may still participate, though no time extensions will be granted and instructions/announcements may not be repeated (so as not to disturb the test).
- If you have special needs, please notify us as soon as possible and we will try to accommodate you.
- We will allow walk-in registration for students who arrive at the test before 9:30 a.m.
In order to register for the NACLO competition at BYU, you will need to fill out this online web form.
Registration is free.
Please register as soon as possible so that we can plan to have sufficient capacity to seat participants.
If you would like to cancel or change your registration information, please contact our webmaster at azure [at] umich [dot] edu
There are no prerequisites for participation, but any preparation you can manage in advance would be helpful.
Follow this link to find examples of test questions and answers from previous years' competitions.
If you would like to explore the possibility of arranging for a BYU faculty member to help coach your students for participation in the olympiad, or if you would like to have a BYU student or faculty member visit your school to give a presentation about the field of linguistics or computational linguistics to your students, please contact us by email, phone, or mail.
Phone: (801) 422-4067
c/o BYU Linguistics
Provo, UT 84602
Directions from the SLC Airport
- Coming from the Salt Lake City International Airport, travel east on i-80 and take the i-215 South (Provo) exit.
- Next, take the i-15 South exit and travel about 30 miles and exit on exit 269, University Parkway.
- Turn east (toward the mountains). This road will take you to one of the two main campus entrances.
- Go to the Joseph F. Smith Building, and report in at room 4068 (on the 4th floor).
The following maps depict various areas of our college and of the BYU campus.
|•BYU Printable Campus Map
•BYU Virtual Campus Map
•BYU Parking Map
Who can participate?
The BYU NACLO competition is designed primarily for high school students residing in Utah. Middle students are also welcome to participate.
What if I'm not a linguist (yet)?
No prior knowledge of linguistics or second languages is necessary to participate in the competition. In fact, there is no pre-requisite knowledge at all. However, it is good to try out some of the previous problems (available elsewhere via this website) to practice solving the types of problems that have been given in the past. The olympiad is a way for you to experience a taste of linguistics and computational linguistics in the 21st century, and to develop and exercise your language, logic, analytic, and problem-solving skills. It will also help you develop a more sophisticated understanding of human language, a useful tool for any future field you choose to pursue in life.
How does the competition take place?
All participants in the BYU NACLO competition will report to BYU on Thursday, January 26, 2023 in the Department of Linguistics conference room (room 4068) on the 4th floor of the Joseph F. Smith Building (JFSB) at BYU. They will all together take a proctored three-hour test consisting of several questions. The responses will be sent to NACLO headquarters for grading, and the results will be announced a short time later. The top contestants will advance to the invitational round a month later.
Why is it called the Computational Linguistics Open Competition?
Linguistics is a large field with many different subfields. The NACLO competition is designed to test the participants' abilities in solving language problems that typically are addressed by linguists. Though not yet widely known to the general public, computational linguistics is a rapidly emerging subfield of linguistics with applications in such areas as search engine technologies, machine translation, and artificial intelligence. Some (but not all!) of the questions in the competition involve some level of computational ability to solve optimally. Experience in computers, programming, or math---while helpful--- is not required for the competition, though.
The American winner of the 2007 international competition stated: "It's like a math contest without the requirement of knowing any math, without the rigor of a math contest. Indeed, mathematicians normally do quite well in the contests." Another student said: "Despite all being based on linguistics, the problems in NACLO are very diverse. Every time I began a new problem, I had to think carefully about what I could use to solve it. The techniques I ended up using ranged from applying basic English grammar to searching for patterns to solving systems of equations."