The Problem enter image description here

enter image description here

My Question

How do you solve this?

My Pitiful Progress

  • (w), in Witsuwit'en, is likely a compound word of (a) and (v)
  • (15) and (16) are very similar spelling-wise. It is probable that they represent "female dog" and "male dog", not necessarily respectively.
  • That would make (12) to (16) inclusive about dogs.
  • "tl'ol", the strange word in (13), is probably something to do with "harness". So (13) would be (g)
  • (12) is the simplest, so it's probably (f)
  • That leaves (14), which is probably (x)

That was as far as I could reason. Could someone please explain how to do the rest of the problem?

The Answers

Here is the solution

  • There is, according to the author, a one-to-one correspondence., How can anybody here do anything but just guess? Ask the person who wrote that.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 19:56
  • This is a NACLO problem, so you are supposed to be able to deduce the correspondence. Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 20:03
  • Where are you getting the ducks from? Were they meant to be dogs? Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 0:31
  • @JanusBahsJacquet According to the solution, the translation for bat would be derived from frog-duck. Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 0:35
  • 1
    Ah, I missed that. I don’t think there’s any possible way to guess that, though. I mean, guessing what X is in dog-X = dog harness is fair enough, but in frog-X = bat, there’s just no way. Could be anything, since bats don't have anything in common with frogs – or indeed with ducks, for that matter! Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 1:30

1 Answer 1


The trick here is to break each Witsuwit'en word into its component parts, then use the patterns of those parts to match them to the English versions. For example, the morpheme for "dog" should appear on its own, with "male", with "female", with "harness" (which appears nowhere else), and maybe with something else to form "wolf". As you've observed, ɬec appears on its own, then in four other compounds. Thus, it could mean "dog"; tl'ol, the unit that appears nowhere else, could mean "harness"; and the other three could be "male", "female", and whatever creates "wolf".

So far you're on the right track! But what next?

Now, we know there's a word for "man" somewhere in the list, but not a word for "woman". The three options are dəni, nani, and yəs. Yəs appears on its own and in a bunch of other words, dəni appears on its own and in one other word, and nani appears nowhere else. Thus, dəni is probably "man", nani is "woman", and yəs is the mystery element that separates a dog from a wolf.

Now we have dəninin, a compound of "man" and some other element from this list. What, on this list, could combine with "man" to make another element from the list? We also have yəs appearing on its own and in three other compounds. What word on this list has three compounds?

The numbers suggest that yəs could be "snow", so a wolf is a "snow dog". That makes sense enough to me (knowing very little about wolves and dogs). Then the compounds of yəs would be "snowflake", "rooftop snow", and "fine powder snow". What would produce each of those? And so on. Continue this process until everything falls into place.

Now, you'll notice that this involved a lot of guessing. I've looked at the answers to make sure my guesses were right—I can't see any good way to confirm them from just this data, until you're far enough in that it would be painful to scrap it all and start over. But I suspect this is just a problem where a few lucky guesses are necessary. You just have to choose which things to guess on (for example, pursuing yəs instead of dəninin in the previous paragraph).

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