Just caught a report about a language of the Canary Islands called “Silbo” on BBCWorld.
From an AP story late last year:
“Juan Cabello takes pride in not using a cell phone or the Internet to communicate. Instead, he puckers up and whistles.
Cabello is a “silbador,” until recently a dying breed on tiny, mountainous La Gomera, one of Spain’s Canary Islands off West Africa. Like his father and grandfather before him, Cabello, 50, knows “Silbo Gomero,” a language that’s whistled, not spoken, and can be heard more than two miles away.”
More at BBC News Online:
“It’s practically a language in itself – just like Castilian Spanish – but it relies on tones rather than vowels and consonants,” Dr Rivero stated.
“The tones are whispered at different frequencies, using Spanish grammar. If we spoke English here, we’d use an English structure for whistling.
“It’s not just disjointed words – it flows, and you can have a proper conversation.”
Is Silbo just learned by doing, or has it got a notation that allows it to be recorded, passed-on and reproduced? Silbo doesn’t seem to feature in the Ethnologue – a catalogue of the 6,800 or so living languages on the planet. I wonder if there are other sung, whistled or signed languages which are not recorded.