Whistled Language (2017)
Whistled language is the name given to a method of communication that uses whistles, a sound made with the help of the fingers, tongue, teeth, lips and cheeks, to simulate and articulate words.
The challenging and mountainous terrain, which create a tough environment in Turkey’s Eastern Black Sea Region, have resulted in houses being built that are remote and inaccessible from one another, giving rise to the local population finding an alternative way to carry out daily communication through the use of high pitched, loud sounds, which are created by whistling across the large distances.
Used to meet daily communication needs with its melodious and rhythmic pattern, whistled language is therefore not only a functional indicator of human creativity, it also has an aesthetic quality. Whistled language is an apparent part of the users’ cultural identities and the concerned communities consider that the reflection of their cultural identity is one of the reinforcing elements of interpersonal communication and social solidarity.
It is estimated that currently nearly 10.000 people in Turkey’s Eastern Black Sea Region are able to speak and/or understand whistled language. Whistled language has kept alive by the people who live in rural areas mainly in Giresun, especially its Çanakçı district, Ordu and Gümüşhane.
The whistled language is used as a cultural means of expression by all segments of society, with no distinction in terms of age, gender, young and old. The practitioners of the element are mainly agricultural communities who spend most of their lives outdoors. In addition, governorates, district authorities, municipalities, universities, and mukhtars (village representative) all play an active role in safeguarding the whistled language with administrative and financial contributions, while the Community Education Center in the Çanakçı District contributes with educational programs and the Bird Language Sustenance Culture and Tourism Association contributes with projects and various social events and activities.
This element of the region’s cultural heritage, which was improved and still survives as a communication system, contributes to cultural diversity as one of the distinctive examples of human self-expression. Scientific researches have ascertained that people who speak whistled language use both the right and left sides of their brain equally and the concerned communities believe that this makes a positive contribution to their creativity.
Whistled Language was inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding on behalf of Turkey in the 12th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held between 4-9 December 2017 in South Korea’s Jeju Island.
Source: The brochure namely “Islık Dili / Whistled Language” which is published by Ministry of Culture and Tourism.