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Whistled language

Whistled language is communication by whistling.

Various whistled languages are known around the world. One example is the Silbo on the island of La Gomera; others exist in Africa, Turkey, South America and Asia. These are not separate languages but rather translations of the phonemes of the local language into whistling sounds. While continental African versions use a whistle, the others whistle with the mouth alone. As the expressivity of whistle sound is limited compared to ordinary speech, whistled messages are typically short and standard and often have to be repeated.

The main advantage of whistling speech is that it allows to cover much larger distances (typically 1-2 km but up to 5 km) than ordinary speech. These speeches are usually found in areas with low population density and difficult terrain.

Languages communicated by whistling are extremely rare among the world's languages. Such languages ignore phonemes and communicate solely based on tone, length and stress.

Languages which are whistled include Pirahã, many African languages, including Yoruba and Ngwe, and some dialects of Zapotec. French is whistled in some areas of western Africa, and Silbo is a whistled dialect of Spanish spoken in one of the Canary Islands.

In Africa and Mexico whistled language is used only by men.

See also: Solresol

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