Turkey: In Kuskoy, people communicate … by whistling

Bizarre ‘Bird Village’ in Turkey features people who whistle to each other

By Dan Taylor, National Monitor | August 18, 2015
Bizarre ‘Bird Village’ in Turkey features people who whistle to each other

A tiny village in remote Turkey called Kuskoy is fascinating scientists when it comes to language.Deep in the mountains of Turkey lies the strange village of Kuskoy, where people communicate … by whistling.

Deep in the mountains of Turkey lies the strange village of Kuskoy, where people communicate … by whistling.

The whistling is so loud throughout the area you would swear it was surrounded by birds, hence its nickname “Bird Village,” but these are people making these noises, and they’re doing it to communicate with each other, according to a Washington Post report.

It’s one of the only places on Earth where a complex system of whistles serves as a primary form of communication, and it is providing new insights into how scientists understand how the brain interprets language, which were described in a study that was published this week in the journal Current Biology.

This whistling is not an independent language, but rather an adaptation of modern Turkish, with a whistle tone representing a different syllable, allowing it to be quickly adapted to any new words.

But it’s still an incredible experiment that is fascinating to researchers, said the author of the study Onur Gunturkun, who is a professor at Ruhr University Bochum in German, as quoted in the report.

This whistling system developed centuries ago, and it’s largely due to the terrain. Because this community lives along difficult terrain near the Black Sea coast, a trip even a short distance is difficult, and a voice only carries so far. Whistling, on the other hand, can be heard from miles away, so it began to serve as a form of communication for those who did not want to make the trek but wanted to know what was going on in the community.

And surprisingly, it’s not the only such community in the world to do so. In the Canary Islands, also an oftentimes rugged terrain due to its volcanic history, there is a whistled version of Spanish. Other instances have been discovery in Greece, Mexico, and Mozambique.

Modern technology is beginning to threaten this form of communication, as cell phones and the Internet may remove the need for such whistled communication, but there are a so-called veteran whistlers who will do their best to pass the skill on to their children.

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