love your city

ay girl you make my whistle blow
April 17, 2011, 08:56
Filed under: trill

there exists an island in the canaries where humans have adapted to the volcanic landscape of deep valley, narrow ravines and lofty peaks by creating a language comprised entirely of whistles. the inhabitants of la gomera have been practicing this way of communication for centuries and though little is known of the original language spoken on the island, their system of speaking endured even the settlement by the spanish in the 16th century. the language was at risk of dying out in the 20th century when the local government made it a requisite for all children to learn the language in school. it is now officially protected as a ‘masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity,’ under UNESCO.

el silbo (the whistle) is technically comprised of 4 vowel and 4 consonant sounds and functions by approximating the sounds one would make if speaking. by monitoring brain activity, it has been shown that those who don’t speak the language perceive the sounds as a simple whistles, while those who speak it show activity in the part of the brain that registers language. pretty humbling for someone who never learned to whistle…


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