Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Whistled Language

Most people believe that all languages have one thing in common—words. As usual, most people are wrong. There are several languages that contain no “words” at all. One is Silbo Gomero, which is spoken entirely in whistles.

A language invented by shepherds who lived on the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain, Silbo Gomero allowed the islands’ inhabitants to communicate across great distances. (It can even be heard from miles away!) When Spanish settlers arrived in the 17th century, they also adopted the language, and for centuries it could be heard from valley to valley.

In recent years, however, it looked as if Silbo Gomero might become extinct. But now the language is required learning for many children on the Canary Islands.

To hear a little Silbo Gomero, click here. Two more samples (along with English translations) can be heard here on the University of Washington's website.


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