Whistled languages use whistling to emulate speech and facilitate communication. A whistled language is a system of whistled communication which allows fluent whistlers to transmit and comprehend a potentially unlimited number of messages over long distances. Whistled languages are different in this respect from the restricted codes sometimes used by herders or animal trainers to transmit simple messages or instructions. Generally, whistled languages emulate the tones or vowel formants of a natural spoken language, as well as aspects of its intonation and prosody, so that trained listeners who speak that language can understand the encoded message.
Whistled language is rare compared to spoken language, but it is found in cultures around the world. It is especially common in tone languages where the whistled tones transmit the tones of the syllables (tone melodies of the words). This might be because in tone languages the tone melody carries more of the functional load of communication while non-tonal phonology carries proportionally less. The genesis of a whistled language has never been recorded in either case and has not yet received much productive study.
Tonal languages are often stripped of articulation, leaving only suprasegmental features such as duration and tone, and when whistled retain the spoken melodic line. Thus whistled tonal languages convey phonemic information solely through tone, length, and, to a lesser extent, stress, and most segmental phonemic distinctions of the spoken language are lost.
In non-tonal languages, more of the articulatory features of speech are retained, and the normally timbral variations imparted by the movements of the tongue and soft palate are transformed into pitch variations. Certain consonants can be pronounced while whistling, so as to modify the whistled sound, much as consonants in spoken language modify the vowel sounds adjacent to them.
"All whistled languages share one basic characteristic: they function by varying the frequency of a simple wave-form as a function of time, generally with minimal dynamic variations, which is readily understandable since in most cases their only purpose is long-distance communication."
Different whistling styles may be used in a single language. Sochiapam Chinantec has three different words for whistle-speech: sie3 for whistling with the tongue against the alveolar ridge, jui̵32 for bilabial whistling, and juo2 for finger-in-the-mouth whistling. These are used for communication over varying distances. There is also a kind of loud falsetto (hóh32) which functions in some ways like whistled speech.
There are a few different techniques of how to produce whistle speech, the choice of which is dependent on practical concerns. Bilabial and labiodental techniques are common for short and medium distance discussions (in a market, in the noise of a room, or for hunting); whereas the tongue retroflexed, one or two fingers introduced in the mouth, a blow concentrated at the junction between two fingers or the lower lip pulled while breathing in air are techniques used to reach high levels of power for long distance speaking. Each place has its favorite trend that depends on the most common use of the village and on the personal preferences of each whistler. Whistling with a leaf or a flute is often related to courtship or poetic expression (reported in the Kickapoo language in Mexico and in the Hmong and Akha cultures in Asia).
Whistling techniques do not require the vibration of the vocal cords: they produce a shock effect of the compressed air stream inside the cavity of the mouth and/or of the hands. When the jaws are fixed by a finger, the size of the hole is stable. The air stream expelled makes vibrations at the edge of the mouth. The faster the air stream is expelled, the higher is the noise inside the cavities. If the hole (mouth) and the cavity (intra-oral volume) are well matched, the resonance is tuned, and the whistle is projected more loudly. The frequency of this bioacoustical phenomenon is modulated by the morphing of the resonating cavity that can be, to a certain extent, related to the articulation of the equivalent spoken form.
The expressivity of whistled speech is likely to be somewhat limited compared to spoken speech (although not inherently so), but such a conclusion should not be taken as absolute, as it depends heavily on various factors including the phonology of the language. For example, in some tonal languages with few tones, whistled messages typically consist of stereotyped or otherwise standardized expressions, are elaborately descriptive, and often have to be repeated. However, in languages which are heavily tonal, and therefore convey much of their information through pitch even when spoken, such as Mazatec and Yoruba, extensive conversations may be whistled. In any case, even for non-tonal languages, measurements indicate that high intelligibility can be achieved with whistled speech (90%) of intelligibility of non-standardized sentences for Greek and the equivalent for Turkish.
This lack of understanding can be seen with a confusion matrix. It was tested using two speakers of Silbo (Jampolsky 1999). The study revealed that generally, the vowels were relatively easy to understand, and the consonants a bit more difficult.
Confusion matrix of the vowels in the perception test. 'Produced' vowels are displayed horizontally and 'perceived' vowels vertically (Numbers in bold correspond to correct identifications).
Confusion matrix of the consonants in the perception test. 'Produced' consonants are displayed horizontally and 'perceived' consonants vertically. (Numbers in bold correspond to correct identifications).
In continental Africa, speech may be conveyed by a whistle or other musical instrument, most famously the "talking drums". However, while drums may be used by griots singing praise songs or for inter-village communication, and other instruments may be used on the radio for station identification jingles, for regular conversation at a distance whistled speech is used. As two people approach each other, one may even switch from whistled to spoken speech in mid-sentence.
Silbo on the island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands, based on Spanish, is one of the best-studied whistled languages (Rialland 2005). The number of distinctive sounds or phonemes in this language is a matter of disagreement, varying according to the researcher from two to five vowels and four to nine consonants. This variation may reflect differences in speakers' abilities as well as in the methods used to elicit contrasts. The work of Meyer  clarifies this debate by providing the first statistical analyses of production for various whistlers as well as psycholinguistic tests of vowel identification.
Other whistled languages exist or existed in such parts of the world as Turkey (Kuşköy, "Village of the Birds"), France (the village of Aas in the Pyrenees), Mexico (the Mazatecs and Chinantecs of Oaxaca), South America (Pirahã), India (Kongthong village of Meghalaya),(the Chepang of Nepal), and New Guinea. They are especially common and robust today in parts of West Africa, used widely in such populous languages as Yoruba and Ewe. Even French is whistled in some areas of western Africa.
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, while aspects as articulation and phonation are eliminated. These are replaced by other features such as stress and rhythmical variations. However, some languages, like that of the Zezuru who speak a Shona-derived dialect, include articulation so that consonants interrupt the flow of the whistle. A similar language is the Tsonga whistle language used in the highlands in the Southern parts of Mozambique. This should not be confused with the whistled sibilants of Shona.
Whistled speech may be very central and highly valued in a culture. Shouting is very rare in Sochiapam Chinantec. Men in that culture are subject to being fined if they do not handle whistle-speech well enough to perform certain town jobs. They may whistle for fun in situations where spoken speech could easily be heard.
In Sochiapam, Oaxaca, and other places in Mexico, and reportedly in West Africa as well, whistled speech is men's language: although women may understand it, they do not use it.
Though whistled languages are not secret codes or secret languages (with the exception of a whistled language used by ñañigos insurgencies in Cuba during Spanish occupation), they may be used for secretive communication among outsiders or others who do not know or understand the whistled language though they may understand its spoken origin. Stories are told of farmers in Aas during World War II, or in La Gomera, who were able to hide evidence of such nefarious activities as milk-watering because they were warned in whistle-speech that the police were approaching.
Whistle languages have naturally developed in response to the necessity for humans to communicate in conditions of relative isolation, with possible causes being distance, noise levels, and night, as well as specific activities, such as social information, shepherding, hunting, fishing, courtship, or shamanism. Because of this usage, they are mostly related to places with mountains or dense forests. Southern China, Papua New Guinea, the Amazon forest, subsaharan Africa, Mexico, and Europe encompass most of these locations.
They have been more recently found in dense forests like the Amazon where they may replace spoken dialogue in the villages while hunting or fishing to overcome the pressure of the acoustic environment. The main advantage of whistling speech is that it allows the speaker to cover much larger distances (typically 1–2 kilometres (0.62–1.24 mi) but up to 5 km (3.1 mi) in mountains and less in reverberating forests) than ordinary speech, without the strain (and lesser range) of shouting. More specifically, whistle speech can reach a loudness of 130 dB, and the transmission range can reach up to 10 km (as verified in La Gomera, Canary Island). The long range of whistling is enhanced by the mountainous terrain found in areas where whistled languages are used. Many areas with such languages work hard to preserve their ancient traditions, in the face of rapidly advancing telecommunications systems in many areas.
A whistled tone is essentially a simple oscillation (or sine wave), and thus timbral variations are impossible. Normal articulation during an ordinary lip-whistle is relatively easy though the lips move little causing a constant of labialization and making labial and labiodental consonants (p, b, m, f, etc.) problematical. "Apart from the five vowel-phonemes [of Silbo Gomero]—and even these do not invariably have a fixed or steady pitch—all whistled speech-sound realizations are glides which are interpreted in terms of range, contour, and steepness." 
There are two different types of whistle tones - hole tones and edge tones. A hole (or 'orifice') tone is produced by a fast-moving cylinder (or 'vena contracta') of air that interacts with the slow-moving anulus of air surrounding it. Instability in the boundary layer leads to perturbations that increase in size until a feedback path is established whereby specific frequencies of the resonance chamber are emphasized. An edge tone, on the other hand, is generated by a thin jet of air that strikes an obstacle. Vortices are shed near the point of disturbance in the flow, alternating on each side of the obstacle or 'wedge'.
A way in which true whistled languages differ from other types of whistled communication is that they encode auditory features of spoken languages by transposing key components of speech sounds. There are two types of whistled languages: those based on non-tone languages, which transpose F2 patterns (dealing with formants), and those based on tone languages, which transpose tone melodies. However, both types of whistle tones have a phonological structure that is related to the spoken language that they are transposing.
In a non-tonal language, segments may be differentiated as follows:
The following list is of languages that exist or existed in a whistled form, or of ethnic groups that speak such languages. In some cases (e.g. Chinantec) the whistled speech is an important and integral part of the language and culture; in others (e.g. Nahuatl) its role is much lesser.
Aas (Occitan: Aas) is the name of a French village of about a hundred inhabitants in the commune of Eaux-Bonnes, Ossau valley, historical province of Haut-Béarn, departement Pyrénées-Atlantiques.
Its shepherds maintained a whistled language until the 20th century. According to Graham Robb, no outsiders knew of the language until a 1959 TV program mentioned it. Whistles were up to 100 decibels, and were used for communication by shepherds in the mountains and by women working in the fields. During the Nazi occupation the language was used to ferry refugees across the Spanish borders.Abbasabad, Khoda Afarin
Abbasabad (Persian: عباس اباد, also Romanized as Abbāsābād and Abasabad) is a village in Minjavan-e Gharbi Rural District, Minjavan District, Khoda Afarin County, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 60, in 13 families.Bien de Interés Cultural
A Bien de Interés Cultural is a category of the heritage register in Spain. The term is also used in Venezuela, and other Spanish-speaking countries.
The term literally means a "good of cultural interest" ("goods" in the economic sense) and includes not only material heritage (cultural property), like monuments or movable works of art, but also intangible cultural heritage, such as the Silbo Gomero language.Some bienes enjoy international protection as World Heritage Sites or Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.Clangers
Clangers is a British stop-motion children's television series, comprising short films about a race (or perhaps a family) of shrew-like creatures who live on, and inside, a small moon-like planet. They speak only in a whistled language, and eat only green soup (supplied by the Soup Dragon) and blue string pudding. The programmes were originally broadcast on BBC1 between 1969 and 1972, followed by a special episode which was broadcast in 1974.
The series was made by Smallfilms, the company set up by Oliver Postgate (who was the show's writer, animator and narrator) and Peter Firmin (who was its modelmaker and illustrator). Firmin designed the characters, and his wife knitted and "dressed" them. The music, often part of the story, was provided by Vernon Elliott.
A third series, narrated by Monty Python actor Michael Palin, was broadcast in the UK from 15 June 2015 on the BBC's CBeebies TV channel, gaining hugely successful viewing figures, following on from a short special broadcast by the BBC earlier that year. The new programmes are still made using stop-motion animation (instead of the computer-generated imagery which had replaced the original stop-motion animation in revivals of other children's shows such as Fireman Sam, Thomas & Friends and The Wombles).
Clangers won a BAFTA in the Best Pre-School Animation category in 2015.Communications receiver
A communications receiver is a type of radio receiver used as a component of a radio communication link. This is in contrast to a broadcast receiver which is used to receive radio broadcasts. A communication receiver receives parts of the radio spectrum not used for broadcasting, that includes amateur, military, aircraft, marine, and other bands. They are often used with a radio transmitter as part of a two way radio link for shortwave radio or amateur radio communication, although they are also used for shortwave listening.Drums in communication
Developed and used by cultures living in forested areas, drums served as an early form of long-distance communication, and were used during ceremonial and religious functions.Guanches
Guanches were the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands. In 2017, the first genome-wide data from the Guanches confirmed a North African origin and that they were genetically most similar to modern North African Berber peoples of the nearby North African mainland. It is believed that they migrated to the archipelago around 1000 BCE or perhaps earlier.
The Guanches were the only native people known to have lived in the Macaronesian region before the arrival of Europeans, as there is no evidence that the other Macaronesian archipelagos (Azores, Cape Verde, Madeira) were inhabited before Europeans arrived. After the Spanish conquest of the Canaries they were ethnically and culturally absorbed by Spanish settlers, although elements of their culture survive to this day, intermixed within Canarian customs and traditions such as Silbo (the whistled language of La Gomera Island).Hand flute
The Hand flute or Handflute is a sort of musical instrument made by the hands. It is also called a 'Hand ocarina' or 'Hand whistle'. To produce sound, one creates a type of chamber with their hands which they blow into between an opening at the thumbs. There are two main techniques involving the shape of the hand chamber: the "cupped hand" technique and the "interlock" technique. The pitch depends on how the hands are held. If the space between the hands is made smaller or the opening made larger, the pitch becomes higher: the principles are the same with an ocarina or Helmholtz resonator; see vessel flute for details of the acoustics. The best hand flute players in the world have a range between 2.5 to 3 octaves.Khoda Afarin County
Khoda Afarin County (Persian: شهرستان خداآفرین) is a county in East Azerbaijan Province in Iran. The capital of the county is Khomarlu. At the 2006 census, the county's population was 34,461, in 7,492 families. The county is subdivided into three districts: the Central District, Minjavan District, and Garamduz District. The county has one city: Khomarlu. Until 2011, The county was a district of Kaleybar county. Before the Islamic Revolution, Khomarlu was merely a village which was distinguished from other villages for housing the headquarters of Royal Gendarmery. The notary office was located in Abbasabad village and operated by a cleric, who also acted as the spiritual authority of the whole district.La Gomera
La Gomera (pronounced [la ɣoˈmeɾa]) is one of Spain's Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. With an area of 369.76 square kilometers, it is the third smallest of the eight main islands of this group. It belongs to the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. La Gomera is the third least populous island with 21,136 inhabitants. Its capital is San Sebastián de La Gomera, where the headquarters of the Cabildo are located.Musical language
Musical languages are constructed languages based on musical sounds, which tend to incorporate articulation. Unlike tonal languages, focused on stress, and whistled languages, focused on pitch bends, musical languages distinguish pitches or rhythms. Whistled languages are dependent on an underlying spoken languages and are used in various cultures as a means for communication over distance, or as secret codes. The mystical concept of a language of the birds tries to connect the two categories, since some authors of musical a priori languages have speculated about a mystical or primeval origin of the whistled languages.Sibel (film)
Sibel is a 2018 Turkish drama film directed by Çagla Zencirci and Guillaume Giovanetti. It was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.Silbo Gomero
Silbo Gomero (Spanish: silbo gomero [ˈsilβo ɣoˈmeɾo], 'Gomeran whistle'), also known as el silbo ('the whistle'), is a whistled register of Spanish used by inhabitants of La Gomera in the Canary Islands to communicate across the deep ravines and narrow valleys that radiate through the island. It enables messages to be exchanged over a distance of up to 5 kilometres. Due to this loud nature, Silbo Gomero is generally used in circumstances of public communication. Messages conveyed could range from event invitations to public information advisories.
A speaker of Silbo Gomero is sometimes referred to in Spanish as a silbador ('whistler'). Silbo Gomero is a transposition of Spanish from speech to whistling. This oral phoneme-whistled phoneme substitution emulates Spanish phonology through a reduced set of whistled phonemes. It was declared as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2009.Sirionó
The Sirionó are an indigenous people of Bolivia. They primarily live in the forested northern & eastern parts of Beni and northwestern Santa Cruz departments of Bolivia. They live between the San Martín, Negro Rivers, and the Machado River.Spoken language
A spoken language is a language produced by articulate sounds, as opposed to a written language. Many languages have no written form and so are only spoken. An oral language or vocal language is a language produced with the vocal tract, as opposed to a sign language, which is produced with the hands and face. The term "spoken language" is sometimes used to mean only vocal languages, especially by linguists, making all three terms synonyms by excluding sign languages. Others refer to sign language as "spoken", especially in contrast to written transcriptions of signs.In spoken language, much of the meaning is determined by the context. That contrasts with written language in which more of the meaning is provided directly by the text. In spoken language, the truth of a proposition is determined by common-sense reference to experience, but in written language, a greater emphasis is placed on logical and coherent argument. Similarly, spoken language tends to convey subjective information, including the relationship between the speaker and the audience, whereas written language tends to convey objective information.The relationship between spoken language and written language is complex. Within the field of linguistics the current consensus is that speech is an innate human capability, and written language is a cultural invention. However some linguists, such as those of the Prague school, argue that written and spoken language possess distinct qualities which would argue against written language being dependent on spoken language for its existence.Both vocal and sign languages are composed of words. In vocal languages, words are made up from a limited set of vowels and consonants, and often tone. In sign languages, words are made up from a limited set of shapes, orientations, locations movements of the hands, and often facial expressions; in both cases, the building blocks are called phonemes. In both vocal and sign languages, words are grammatically and prosodically linked into phrases, clauses, and larger units of discourse.
Hearing children acquire as their first language the language that is used around them, whether vocal, cued (if they are sighted) signed. Deaf children can do the same with Cued Speech or sign language if either visual communication system is used around them. Vocal language are traditionally taught to them in the same way that written language must be taught to hearing children. (See oralism.)The Whistlers (film)
The Whistlers (or La Gomera) is a 2019 Romanian crime thriller film directed by Corneliu Porumboiu and starring Vlad Ivanov. It premiered in competition at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.Whistle
A whistle is an instrument which produces sound from a stream of gas, most commonly air. It may be mouth-operated, or powered by air pressure, steam, or other means. Whistles vary in size from a small slide whistle or nose flute type to a large multi-piped church organ.
Whistles have been around since early humans first carved out a gourd or branch and found they could make sound with it. In prehistoric Egypt, small shells were used as whistles. Many present day wind instruments are inheritors of these early whistles. With the rise of more mechanical power, other forms of whistles have been developed.
One characteristic of a whistle is that it creates a pure, or nearly pure, tone. The conversion of flow energy to sound comes from an interaction between a solid material and a fluid stream. The forces in some whistles are sufficient to set the solid material in motion. Classic examples are Aeolian tones that result in galloping power lines, or the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (the so-called "Galloping Gertie" of popular media). Other examples are circular disks set into vibration.Depending on the geometry, there are two basic types of whistles: those that generate sound through oscillations of fluid mass flow, and those that generate sound through oscillations of the force applied to the surrounding medium.Whistling
Whistling without the use of an artificial whistle is achieved by creating a small opening with one's lips and then blowing or sucking air through the hole. The air is moderated by the lips, curled tongue, teeth or fingers (placed over the mouth) to create turbulence, and the curled tongue acts as a resonant chamber to enhance the resulting sound by acting as a type of Helmholtz resonator.