Turkey, Culture

Turkey's whistled language to get alphabet

Kusdili used by locals in villages in northern Turkey will be studied by experts to create alphabet

Handan Kazancı   | 29.03.2018
Turkey's whistled language to get alphabet


By Atakan Citlak 

GIRESUN, Turkey 

A group of Turkish academics have launched a project to create an alphabet for the whistled language, which is spoken in northern Turkey’s Black Sea region. 

Around 10,000 people, mostly in the district of Canakci in Giresun province, currently use and understand the language, according to UNESCO. 

The language, Kusdili (bird language) as the locals call it, has been listed by UNESCO as being in need of urgent safeguarding last year. 

It was developed to allow people to communicate across steep mountain valleys but has been dying out as mobile phones reduce the need for new generations to learn the language. 

Prof. Musa Genc, the dean of Tourism Faculty at Giresun University, told Anadolu Agency the project aims to "pass on this cultural heritage to future generations". 

"To do that we have formed a working group to create the alphabet of the whistled language," Genc added. 

He said a group of academics, including musicians well as linguists from the Giresun University, will visit Kuskoy village and begin creating the alphabet for the language. 

According to Genc, firstly, the records of language will be turned into notes and later into letters. 

"When the project is finalized, the whistled language, which is used for communication by locals in the region, will be more common and internationally used language," he said. 

He said the language had been used in Giresun for around 500 years and it was also used in other parts of the world as a communication tool. 

The human voice can travel up to 500 meters in normal conditions, Genc said, adding the whistled language allows the voice to reach up to 30 kilometers (18 miles) in good weather conditions. 

The practice is one of the dozens of whistled languages used around the world where steep terrain or dense forests make communication difficult over distances, such as North Africa's Atlas mountains, the highlands of northern Laos or the Amazon basin in Brazil. 

Since 1997, the Bird Language Festival has been held in Kuskoy to promote its use. The district has also provided training programs to primary school pupils for the last three years. 

However, despite these efforts, UNESCO found that "the whistled language may soon totally disappear unless essential safeguarding measures are undertaken using an integrated approach".

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