How do you communicate over large distances on a mountainous island full of deep ravines? On La Gomera in the Canaries, inhabitants developed a whistling language to save themselves long and arduous treks. Maybe we should all use it when the network coverage is poor.
The whistling mimics the sounds of the local language, using variations in the notes to represent words. Indeed, brain scans show that listeners are exploiting the same parts of the brain used in normal language processing when interpretting the whistling.
Although other places in the world have whistling languages, this one is unusual because it’s so sophisticated and practised by thousands of inhabitants. Indeed, the island habitants learn the language at school. It’s importance has been recognized by Unesco.
Waiter demonstrates language for tourists
La Gomera in the Canaries
- Sound extracted from BBC interview
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- Suggested by Bernard Berry