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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.
One of the earliest records of whistled speech may be in Xenophon's Anabasis . While travelling through the territory of an ancient tribe on the southern Black Sea coast in 400 B.C.E he writes that the inhabitants could hear one another at great distances across the valleys. The same area encompasses the Turkish village of Kuşköy where whistled speech (kuş dili) is practised today.
In early China, the technique of transcendental whistling was a kind of nonverbal language with affinities to the spiritual aspects of Daoist meditation.
In 1982 in the Greek village of Antia on Euboea island, the entire population knew the local whistled speech called sfyria,but only a few whistlers remain now.
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. 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.The main advantage of whistling speech is that it allows the speaker to cover much larger distances (typically
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. 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.[ citation needed ]
In Sochiapam, Oaxaca, and other places in Mexico, and reportedly in West and Southern Africa as well (specifically among the VhaVenda), whistled speech is men's language: although women may understand it, they do not use it.[ citation needed ]
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.
Whistled languages differ according to whether the spoken language is tonal or not, with the whistling being either tone or articulation based (or both). Most whistle languages, of which there are several hundred, are based on tonal languages.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
In Canary Islands, Silbo on the island of La Gomera, 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 Meyerclarifies this debate by providing the first statistical analyses of production for various whistlers as well as psycholinguistic tests of vowel identification.
In a non-tonal language, segments may be differentiated as follows:
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."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 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).
"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."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.
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 heavily tonal languages such as Mazatec and Yoruba, a large amount of information is conveyed through pitch even when spoken, and therefore 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 Greekand the equivalent for Turkish.
The 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.
The following list is of languages that exist or existed in a whistled form, or of ethnic groups that speak such languages.
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.
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are and [b], pronounced with the lips; and [d], pronounced with the front of the tongue; and [g], pronounced with the back of the tongue;, pronounced in the throat;, [v], and, pronounced by forcing air through a narrow channel (fricatives); and and, which have air flowing through the nose (nasals). Contrasting with consonants are vowels.
The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin script. It was devised by the International Phonetic Association in the late 19th century as a standardized representation of speech sounds in written form. The IPA is used by lexicographers, foreign language students and teachers, linguists, speech–language pathologists, singers, actors, constructed language creators and translators.
Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical properties of speech. The field of phonetics is traditionally divided into three sub-disciplines based on the research questions involved such as how humans plan and execute movements to produce speech, how various movements affect the properties of the resulting sound, or how humans convert sound waves to linguistic information. Traditionally, the minimal linguistic unit of phonetics is the phone—a speech sound in a language—which differs from the phonological unit of phoneme; the phoneme is an abstract categorization of phones.
Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning – that is, to distinguish or to inflect words. All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information and to convey emphasis, contrast and other such features in what is called intonation, but not all languages use tones to distinguish words or their inflections, analogously to consonants and vowels. Languages that have this feature are called tonal languages; the distinctive tone patterns of such a language are sometimes called tonemes, by analogy with phoneme. Tonal languages are common in East and Southeast Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Pacific.
The Chinantec or Chinantecan languages constitute a branch of the Oto-Manguean family. Though traditionally considered a single language, Ethnologue lists 14 partially mutually unintelligible varieties of Chinantec. The languages are spoken by the indigenous Chinantec people who live in Oaxaca and Veracruz, Mexico, especially in the districts of Cuicatlán, Ixtlán de Juárez, Tuxtepec and Choapan, and in Staten Island, New York.
Silbo Gomero, also known as el silbo, is a whistled register of Spanish used by inhabitants of La Gomera in the Canary Islands, historically used to communicate across the deep ravines and narrow valleys that radiate through the island. It enabled messages to be exchanged over a distance of up to 5 kilometres. Due to its loud nature, Silbo Gomero was generally used in circumstances of public communication. Messages conveyed ranged 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.
Assimilation is a sound change in which some phonemes change to become more similar to other nearby sounds. A common type of phonological process across languages, assimilation can occur either within a word or between words.
A nasal vowel is a vowel that is produced with a lowering of the soft palate so that the air flow escapes through the nose and the mouth simultaneously, as in the French vowel /ɑ̃/ (help·info) or Amoy . By contrast, oral vowels are produced without nasalization.
In phonetics, nasalization is the production of a sound while the velum is lowered, so that some air escapes through the nose during the production of the sound by the mouth. An archetypal nasal sound is.
The phonology of Vietnamese features 19 consonant phonemes, with 5 additional consonant phonemes used in Vietnamese's Southern dialect, and 4 exclusive to the Northern dialect. Vietnamese also has 14 vowel nuclei, and 6 tones that are integral to the interpretation of the language. Older interpretations of Vietnamese tones differentiated between "sharp" and "heavy" entering and departing tones. This article is a technical description of the sound system of the Vietnamese language, including phonetics and phonology. Two main varieties of Vietnamese, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, which are slightly different to each other, are described below.
In linguistics, a chroneme is a basic, theoretical unit of sound that can distinguish words by duration only of a vowel or consonant. The noun chroneme is derived from Ancient Greek χρόνος (khrónos) 'time', and the suffixed -eme, which is analogous to the -eme in phoneme or morpheme. However, the term does not have wide currency and may be unknown even to phonologists who work on languages claimed to have chronemes.
The Mazatecan languages are a group of closely related indigenous languages spoken by some 200,000 people in the area known as the Sierra Mazateca, which is in the northern part of the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, as well as in adjacent areas of the states of Puebla and Veracruz.
Chilcotin is a Northern Athabaskan language spoken in British Columbia by the Tsilhqot’in people.
This article describes the phonology of the Somali language.
Central Alaskan Yupik, or Yupʼik is one of the languages of the Yupik family, in turn a member of the Eskimo–Aleut language group, spoken in western and southwestern Alaska. Both in ethnic population and in number of speakers, the Central Alaskan Yupik people form the largest group among Alaska Natives. As of 2010 Yupʼik was, after Navajo, the second most spoken aboriginal language in the United States. Yupʼik should not be confused with the related language Central Siberian Yupik spoken in Chukotka and St. Lawrence Island, nor Naukan Yupik likewise spoken in Chukotka.
The phonology of Sesotho and those of the other Sotho–Tswana languages are radically different from those of "older" or more "stereotypical" Bantu languages. Modern Sesotho in particular has very mixed origins inheriting many words and idioms from non-Sotho–Tswana languages.
Izi is an Igboid language spoken in Ebonyi state in Nigeria. It forms a dialect cluster with closely related Ikwo, Ezza, and Mgbo.
Kickapoo whistled speech is a means of communication among Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, a Kickapoo tribe in Texas and Mexico. Whistled speech is a system of whistled communication that allows subjects to transmit and exchange a potentially unlimited set of messages over long distances.
Sochiapam is a Chinantec language of Mexico. It is most similar to Tlacoatzintepec Chinantec, with which it has 66% intelligibility.
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