A Whistled Language in Turkey

Halil Cindik, head of the Kuskoy Bird Language Association, demonstrates his technique for whistling Turkish words and phrases. The piercing tones can be heard a mile or more away, depending on conditions. Cindik says an annual festival is helping to keep the whistled language alive, but the spread of cellphones is causing villagers to abandon it.
Photo via npr.org.

I heard this story while driving to work last week – a whistled language in rural Turkey. I’m mesmerized by the ways this language could push our understanding of language as a system!

“After Cakir demonstrates her whistling chops with some complex phrases, two other villagers devise a test to show that this isn’t some kind of prearranged code, but an actual language.

One villager is given a phone number from Istanbul that neither man has seen before. He whistles it to the second man, Halil Cindik, the head of the Kuskoy Bird Language Association. Cindik dials the number that’s been whistled to him, and it’s right.”

Check out the full story on NPR.




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