Whistled language

Some cultures use a whistled language to communicate. This means that speech is emulated in whistling, which can cover much larger distances.

From Wikipedia:

Whistled languages are normally found in locations with difficult mountainous terrain, slow or difficult communication, low population density and/or scattered settlements, and other isolating features such as shepherding and cultivation of hillsides (Busnel and Classe 1976: 27 – 28). The main advantage of whistling speech is that it allows the speaker to cover much larger distances (typically 1 – 2 km but up to 5 km) than ordinary speech, without the strain (and lesser range) of shouting.

As two people approach each other, one may even switch from whistled to spoken speech in mid-sentence.

This page has a nice example of a whistled conversation in Sochiapam Chinantec, a tonal language spoken in part of southern Mexico. The whistled version of the language is only spoken by men. (The conversation is interrupted by a modern telephone ring, which amused me greatly.)

Another example of whistled language, ‘Silbo Gomero’: CNN.com — “Nearly extinct whistling language revived”

Thanks to Chris for sharing such excitement about the Pirahã people and their language.

February 20, 2008. sound. No Comments.

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