Thursday , February 22 2018

Video | Silbo, the Lost Whistling Language of the Guanches in Canary Islands

The Silbo Gomero is a whistled register system that has been used for decades by the ‘Guanches‘, the aboriginal Amazigh inhabitants of the Canary Islands to emulate speech and facilitate communication between the islanders.

The Silbo is the only whistled language in the world that is fully developed and practiced by a large community (more than 22,000 inhabitants). The whistled language replaces each vowel or consonant with a whistling sound: two distinct whistles replace the five Spanish vowels, and there are four whistles for consonants. The whistles can be distinguished according to pitch and whether they are interrupted or continuous. With practice, whistlers can convey any message. Some local variations even point to their origin.

Taught in schools since 1999, the Silbo Gomero is understood by almost all islanders and practiced by the vast majority, particularly the elderly and the young. It is also used during festivities and ceremonies, including religious occasions. To prevent it from disappearing like the other whistled languages of the Canary Islands, it is important to do more for its transmission and promote the Silbo Gomero as intangible cultural heritage cherished by the inhabitants of La Gomera and the Canary Islands as a whole.

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