A Language of Whistles

In the remote Turkish mountains, people found an incredible way to communicate.

In the northeastern mountains of Turkey, residents separated by tree-packed slopes turned to an unusual communication method: whistling. Small villages adapted the language, known as whistled Turkish—which, as it sounds, is Turkish adapted into a series of whistles—as a means for long-distance communication long before the telephone or Twitter was an option.

A mountainous topography carries the whistles much farther than yelling would, at a distance of 50 to 90 meters away; 10,000 people still use them today. Now, researchers in Current Biology discovered an interesting effect whistled Turkish has on the brain: since it’s composed of auditory features like frequency, pitch, and melody, it lights up the whistler’s right brain in addition to their left brain. Watch the unique language in the video above.