- Sep 2021
Tran Ngoc, herself a musician, speculates that this is because flutists are trained to use sounds like t and k to help articulate notes crisply. “So there’s this link with language that might not be present for other instruments,” she says.
I was taught something relatively similar for bits of kazoo and harmonica. I wonder if these effects would be seen in those settings as well?
In practice, almost every whistled tonal language chooses to use pitch to encode the tones.
Why is pitch encoding of tones more prevalent in tonal languages? What is the efficiency and outcome of the speech and the information that can be encoded?
Whistlers of tonal languages thus face a dilemma: Should they whistle the tones, or the vowels and consonants? “In whistling, you can produce only one of the two. They have to choose,” says Meyer.
Non-tonal speech is easy to transfer into whistling language, but tonal languages have to choose between whistling the tones or the vowels and consonants as one can only produce one of the two with whistling.
What effect does this tell us about the information content and density of languages, particularly tonal languages and whistling?
Whistled languages are almost always developed by traditional cultures that live in rugged, mountainous terrain or in dense forest. That’s because whistled speech carries much farther than ordinary speech or shouting, says Julien Meyer, a linguist and bioacoustician at CNRS, the French national research center, who explores the topic of whistled languages in the 2021 Annual Review of Linguistics.
Rugged mountainous terrain and dense forests show a marked increase in the use of whistled languages as a means of carrying the sound further than ordinary speech or even shouting.
Who'd have thought that geography would have such an influence on language outside of language spread?
<small><cite class='h-cite via'>ᔥ <span class='p-author h-card'> Josh Cohen </span> in "More Than 80 Cultures Still Speak in Whistles" - Language Learning - Art of Memory Forum (<time class='dt-published'>09/01/2021 12:48:40</time>)</cite></small>