Whistle Language

When I was but a young lad I dreamt of knowing all the languages in the world. Sadly, today, I can only speak two. I recently learned of a new language I had never heard of before. That language is the language of whistling.

In today’s societies, whistling only communicates emotions. As in when I whistle at my girlfriend, she knows that I am showing her my love and affection for her. However, information can be communicated through whistling and it does occur in some parts of South America, Africa, Asia, New Guinea and the Canary Islands.

Most whistle languages, of which there are several hundred, are based on tonal languages. Only the tone of the speech is saved in the whistle, things such as articulation and phonation are eliminated. These are replaced by other features such as stress and rhythmical variations. However, some languages, llike that of the people of Aas in the Pyrenees who speak a Spanish-derived dialect, however, some languages include articulation so that consonants interrupt the flow of the whistle. A similar language is the Silbo Gomera whistle language used by shepherds high up in the mountains in the Canary Island of La Gomera. Both of the languages share the common traits of being based on Spanish, the method of whistling, the similarity of the signals in the Spanish linguistic framework and the functional purpose of the signaling.

The Silbo whistle works by whistling at the same time as trying to articulate as normally as possible. Due to the nature of the Spanish dialect found on La Gomera in the Canaries, the resulting pitch contour is adequately recognizable for non-native Spanish speakers to pick up the Silbo within a matter of months. Since the whistling of La Gomera uses the structure of the spoken dialect, it is powerful enough to allow whistlers to communicate about any topic.

Similarly in Turkey in the village of Kusköy, people use a whistle-version of Turkish to converse across mountains. Many other tribes appear to have such communication methods; Indian tribes in Mexico, tribes in Nepal, Burma, New Guinea, West Africa, etc.

Whistle languages have evolved in situations where words are impractical. Like the Silbo's whistle from mountain top to mountain top or through valleys. Wistling travels farther and is not as stressfull to the throat as is yelling. Since whistling relies on the character of the dialect it imitates, its not appropriate for all languages. However, it's better than drum languages as whistling functions at the same pace as speech.


Many thanks go to themanwho for practically proofreading everything for me :)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3241128.stm
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050106112603.htm
http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/science/11/18/whistle.language.ap/

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