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August 20, 2010 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Linguistics Challenge Puzzles! (Difficulty ranging from green circles to double black diamonds...Friday fun for all!)

For more puzzles, check out the International Linguistic Olympics Site. Kila la kheri!
posted by iamkimiam (34 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite

Wow, these look absurdly difficult but I'll have fun trying them! Also, that page is rather red.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:46 AM on August 20, 2010

I just finished the Chickasaw one but I can't get the score field(s) to update, so I have no idea how I did. :-(
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:57 AM on August 20, 2010

Clicking inside the text boxes seems to update them.
posted by edbles at 8:00 AM on August 20, 2010

I just solved a Swahili of the Eastern Congo puzzle and was told 'Congratulations! You have solved the Turkish puzzle.'
posted by shakespeherian at 8:05 AM on August 20, 2010

Must just be my browser then. Carry on.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:05 AM on August 20, 2010

Omg, the red! It's all red!
posted by antifuse at 8:16 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dammit. The only one I have any reasonable hope of solving - quechua - does not appear to be working. SADFACE.

I will console myself by failing horribly at the thai one.
posted by elizardbits at 8:17 AM on August 20, 2010

OMG! Heaven.

(Puzzles like these are pretty much the entire reason I majored in Linguistics.)
posted by ocherdraco at 8:25 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is the RED page a part of the puzzle. Meant to drive you insane and blind you so that it's more difficult to solve.
posted by Fizz at 8:27 AM on August 20, 2010

anyone else having trouble with the French one? The Javascript isn't working in Firefox on Linux.
posted by xbonesgt at 8:27 AM on August 20, 2010

I can't get the Chickasaw one to work either. For the record, here are my answers:

1. Hattakat ihooã hollo.
2. Kowi'at shoha.
3. Holloli.
4. The woman loves me.
5. The dog dances.
6. I chase the cat.

Anybody want to compare?
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:29 AM on August 20, 2010

The French one works for me in Google Chrome, but not Chickasaw. Cool post!
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 8:33 AM on August 20, 2010

posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:37 AM on August 20, 2010

Johnny Assay, I get the same answers for 1, 2, 5 and 6. I didn't solve the other two.
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:41 AM on August 20, 2010

I feel I had successfully figured out the Chickasaw puzzle but the JS thing isn't working for me in MSIE 8 and Opera 9.0. That makes me sad. Very sad.
posted by the cydonian at 8:43 AM on August 20, 2010

It didn't seem to work with my browser, unfortunately.
posted by Forktine at 9:01 AM on August 20, 2010

The ones it allows me to do and verify are AWESOME. AWESOME.

I'm getting through the blues, though I had problems checking the Chickasaw one too.
posted by lydhre at 9:10 AM on August 20, 2010

Maybe the problem is quiz-specific (since Chickasaw seems to be broken for everybody). Anyone want to make a list of the ones that are known to work?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:12 AM on August 20, 2010

The Agta one worked for me (Chrome). That's the only one I tried so far.
posted by CheeseLouise at 9:17 AM on August 20, 2010

All the green ones except the Chickasaw one work.
posted by lydhre at 9:20 AM on August 20, 2010

Very cool! Managed to figure out the Nahuatl one pretty easily. You can keep updating the fields and changing your answers until you get them all correct. Just click in another field or tab out to get it to update.

The hint about scratch paper really is spot on; it helped me a lot to sit down with a list of the applicable tenses and persons and write out what the rules were for each. And I think the Nahuatl puzzle is a lot simpler than some, since it's just verb conjugation with no objects (ie. I was singing, he sleeps, they cry, etc.).

I wish there was a harder version of the Nahuatl puzzle, actually; I'm curious now how more complex subjects and objects affect things. Will have to try some of the other languages later. Still, this is very fun, thanks for the link!

(Nahuatl works in Firefox, for what it's worth. Haven't tried any others.)
posted by ashirys at 9:22 AM on August 20, 2010

Agta works.
Chickasaw does not work.
Kurdish opens as a pdf, and so does not work.
Nahuatl works.
Swahili works.
Tajik works, but says "Good start!" after the first one no matter what one types.
Turkish works.
Yaqui works.
Clicking "Next Puzzle in Series" after Yaqui goes to a blank page.

That's all I've done so far. Mac OS 10.5.8, Firefox 3.5.11
posted by steambadger at 9:29 AM on August 20, 2010

Uhhh, this is totally awesome and going to suck up all of my time this evening.
posted by malthas at 9:30 AM on August 20, 2010

I like these. Here's Samoan:
1. The cat got scared.
2. The mice chased away the cat.
3. 'Ua lalafi tama.
4. 'Ua pu'e e 'isumu le maile.
5. 'Ua fafasi e le teine pua'a.

Lots of interesting things going on here.
1. The syntactic subject is literally the subject/recipient of the action, rather than the agent. That is, the top-level noun phrase is the noun that changes, state, regardless of whether it's doing the action. Therefore: "fafasi" (killed-pl) instead of "fasi" (killed-sing) because it's "pua'a" (pigs-pl) instead of "le teine" (girl-sing) that is the grammatical subject.
2. State changes are kind of almost semi-reflexive. "The girls got scared" translates into a Samoan phrase with no clear agent.
3. Particle-based morphology. Null-determiner for plurals, "le" for singular. "e" indicates subject if the verb subselects for both an agent and a recipient.

Pretty neat stuff.

I'll take a look at Chickasaw.
posted by thesmophoron at 9:33 AM on August 20, 2010

Anybody want to compare?
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:29 AM on August 20 [+] [!]

Mrs. Deadmessenger's answers were identical to yours.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:57 AM on August 20, 2010


1. Only two phrases have three syllables (KoKoCu and piyano). The rest of the phrases have two syllables.
2. Only two Amharic script phrases have three characters. The rest have two characters.
3. Semitic language writing systems tend to favor expression of consonants, with diacritical marks for indicating vowel sounds if they are indicated at all, resulting in quasi-syllabic characters.
4. From 1, 2, 3, I infer that Amharic has a syllabic writing system.
5. h is the only three-character script that doubles characters.
6. KoKoCu is the only three-syllable phrase that doubles syllables.
7. From 4, 5, 6, I deduce that h is KoKoCu.
8. From 1, 2, 7, I deduce that f is piyano.
9. From 7 I deduce that character (phi+uppercircle) is "Ko"
10. From 9 I deduce that e is KoKe.
11. From 8 I infer that "pi" is (tau+lowerrightdot)
12. From 10 I infer that "-e" is (- + lowerrightcircle)
13. From 11, 12, 3, I deduce that "pe" is (tau+lowerrightcircle).
14. From 13 I deduce that j is "zipe"
15. Two phrases start with "G-", one of which starts with "Ge"
16. Two phrases start with (7 + -), one of which starts with (7 + lowerrightcircle)
17. From 15, 16, 12, I deduce that b is "Geta"
18. From 15, 17, I deduce that g is GaTe
19. From 18 I infer that (mu+-) is "T-"
20. Only one phrase starts with (mu+-); only one word starts with "T-"
21. From 19, 20 I deduce that i is "Tatu"
22. From 21 I infer that "tu" is (tee+midlowerrightdot)
23. There is only one phrase that ends with (tee+midlowerrightdot). There is only one phrase that ends with "-tu"
24. From 22, 23, I deduce that c is "betu"
25. From 3, 12 I deduce that a is "koke"
26. From exhaustion of the enumeration I deduce that d is laba

a koke
b Geta
c betu
d laba
e KoKe
f piyano
g GaTe
h KoKoCu
i Tatu
j zipe
posted by thesmophoron at 9:59 AM on August 20, 2010

Undergrad linguistics flashback! Sound the alarm. Completed Agta, Hawaiian and Czech before the time warp got too intense.
posted by 256 at 11:10 AM on August 20, 2010

I wish more of the harder ones came with solutions; feels sort of pointless to attempt them if I can never be sure I'm right.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:11 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hooray! Thank you! Linguistics degrees fo-eva!
posted by sunnichka at 12:20 PM on August 20, 2010

Anybody want to compare?

I came up with the same answers, and, yeah, it looks like that puzzle must just be borked.
posted by cortex at 4:28 PM on August 20, 2010

The befitting words to articulate my excitement elude me, so I'll settle on *squee!* and "Linguistic Olympics, baby!".
posted by lioness at 4:54 PM on August 20, 2010

:( on the Chickasaw puzzle being borked thing.

Thanks Johnny Assay for that set of answers (I got the same..)
posted by motty at 6:55 PM on August 20, 2010

Bah. Annoyed by the number of puzzles not working. Endo and French puzzles both seem borked and bah to that.

Meanwhile, I have at least learned that telling the time in Czech is fun, for values of 'fun' that apparently include native speakers being used to foreigners arriving exactly one hour late.
posted by motty at 8:23 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed learning diminutive prefixes for a nearly unused language but now i feel strangely colonial.. perhaps a sip of gin will fix the problem....
posted by armisme at 12:10 AM on August 21, 2010

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