In my puzzle column this morning I set you the following puzzle from the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad:
The Uros people live on artificial islands made from reeds on Lake Titicaca in South America. They speak Aymara. (This is all true)
Below, seven Uros fishermen describe their catch in Aymara. Can you work out who caught what? But watch out! One of the fishermen is lying.
1. “Mä hach’a challwawa challwataxa.”
2. “Kimsa hach’a challwawa challwataxa.”
3. “Mä challwa mä hach’a challwampiwa challwataxa.”
4. “Mä hach’a challwa kimsa challwallampiwa challwataxa.”
5. “Paya challwallawa challwataxa.”
6. “Mä challwalla paya challwampiwa challwataxa.”
7. “Kimsa challwa paya challwallampiwa challwataxa.”
1g, 2b (LIE), 3a, 4c, 5d, 6f, 7e
Here are the patterns that will have helped you work this out:
challwataxa is the last word of each sentence. It means “caught” or “fish”
mä, paya, and kimsa are the numbers 1, 2 and 3
challwa is the root “fish.”
–lla indicates the little fish, whereas hach’a indicates the big fish.
-mpi occurs whenever there are two kinds of fish.
–wa occurs at the very end, but before challwataxa.
I’m not a linguist, so if there are any linguists reading this I’d be interested to hear their comments on Aymara and tips on what to look for in solving this kind of puzzle.
(Note for people who might actually want to speak Aymara: Patrick Littell, who set the problem, says that “some of the final letters are unpronounced, somewhat as in French; written Aymara usually doesn’t write them, but this puzzle still includes them because the Aymara teacher that assisted the author preferred to keep them in.”)
Thanks to the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad for today’s puzzle, and also to the UK Linguistics Olympiad. If you are a teacher or a parent (or a keen student!) with an interest in languages, I’d recommend checking them out – and encouraging your pupils/children to join the competition. They are open for any school age and ability.
I set a puzzle here every two weeks on a Monday. I’m always on the look-out for great puzzles. If you would like to suggest one, email me.