Kuşköy: The Turkish village that talks in whistles!

Communication has always been an integral part of human evolution. People on this planet have spent centuries being able to communicate with each other. They learned signs, languages, art, music, and what not to make this possible. You may have heard of many languages, but have you ever even thought of communication through whistles? Yes, it is as bizarre as it sounds. Let’s take a closer look into this community of villagers who converse using whistles, aka, the ‘bird language.’

Kritagya Kriti | BeatCurry Team


The next time you’re in Turkey, go off the main tourist path and visit Kuşköy, a village in the district of Canakci in the province of Giresun where inhabitants converse through bird sounds. The whistle language, called “Kuş Dili”, which is used by villages in distant northern Turkey as a means of communication, has been added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Kuşköy is a village in Turkey’s Black Sea area, located in the Giresun province. The name’s literal translation is “Village of the Birds”.This community, where tea and hazelnuts are grown, is in the center of “whistle country,” where more than 80% of the population uses this wonderful mode of communication. Kus Dili is about 4 centuries old and allows complex conversations over long distances without using words, but whistles. Also, the bird language transforms the full Turkish vocabulary into various pitch frequencies.

Typical topics of conversation in the whistle language are invitations to tea or to help out with work, notifying neighbors when a harvest wagon is coming, or announcements of funerals, births, and invitations for weddings. Moreover, a whistling language can triumph over an ambient noise more appropriately and effectively than a regular or a yelled voice. Therefore, the residents of those areas can use such speech in a few day-to-day activities such as long-distance communications, warning, harvesting, gathering, or communications in noisy areas. The nature of whistled speech through ambient noise can also be considered an effective way of signaling any emergency.

Talking about the origin of this language, farmers in Kuşköy have kept livestock and produced various crops for centuries. They started using the bird language so they could quickly communicate with each other over the distant hills where they used to work. Before the advent of technology, whistling over long distances was considered more efficient and appropriate considering the topography of the villages. People here can communicate phrases as simple as ‘okay’ and complicated ones too like, “Is the next harvest season expected to be favorable?” Moreover, they do this just by using their teeth, fingers, lips, tongue, and cheeks. However, in the present era of technology, fewer people are showing a willingness to learn the whistling language, gradually vanishing away from the use of this form of communication.

For centuries, this incredible language has been exceeded by grandparents to their families. It, therefore, sets up a series of passing the wealthy linguistic way of life and culture among the people of Kuşköy. The village incorporates a small population in which more than 80 percent of people exercise this notable technique of communication. The practice of bird language is a chain of blowing whistles that may be heard from distances more than a kilometer or so. It’s an aggregate of high-pitched whistles and melodious sounds used for communication. The beauty of these two sounds is that it resembles the music of birds. Moreover, the best part is that there is neither any sensible restriction to its vocabulary, nor do people need to be wary of any grammatical errors.

Whistle languages have existed throughout history, such as in Mexico, Greek communities, and Spain’s Canary Islands, but the Turkish one appears to be the most high-pitched and linguistically developed, with over 400 words and phrases. 

The people who used to speak this language proficiently are turning physically weak as aging took a toll. Thus, making it harder to conserve the cultural heritage. Apart from this, it can also be seen that the young generation here, is also not as interested in learning the language and are also unable to update its vocabulary. The language is hardly used by women and young men to learn it simply for the sake of their pride rather than to save their cultural heritage. Furthermore, UNESCO also considers it under the list of intangible cultural heritage in the need of urgent safeguarding. Keeping aside the technological reasons, migration of the village people to urban and developed areas in search of employment can also be one of the major reasons for this language getting extinct.

The city community has been working to keep the practice alive through its annual Bird Language Festival and teaching the language in schools since 2014. The media’s attention to their particular form of communication is also helping in its conservation.


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