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Residents of this remote Turkish village ‘talk’ in ear-splitting bird whistles from afar

Communication is the process of sending message and receiving a feedback. Whether it involves spoken words or expressed through actions, as long as one sends a message and receives a feedback, a communication takes place.

What makes communication fascinating is how it can vary from one place to another. Such is the remote village found in the high mountains of Black Sea Coast in Turkey. What makes their way of communicating with one another a cut above the rest, is the so called ‘bird language’ they are using.

Perhaps you are wondering, whistling has been around through ages and nothings seems to be special about it. However, in the case of the Turkish residing in the village of Kuskoy, people literally can speak to one another through a series of whistles.

How can one express one’s thoughts and feelings freely through whistling? Halik Cindik, the head of the Kuskoy Bird Language Association, demonstrated their culture’s whistling techniques in communicating words and phrases. Depending on certain conditions, a piercing whistle can be heard even more than a mile away.

An upbeat and joyous woman from Kuskoy also demonstrated how their ‘bird language‘ works to show that it is more than a prearranged code. One of their villagers was asked to participate in a test together with Cindik. One was given a phone number from Istanbul that neither of them had seen before. The man who has the phone number was asked to pass the number to Cindik through their ‘bird language.’

Amazingly, by simply listening to the whistles of his fellow villager, Cindik was able to dial the number of the man from Istanbul.

A Turkish-German bio-psychologist named Onur Gunturkun took interest in studying and exploring the ‘bird language’ practiced by the villagers of Kuskoy.

“I was absolutely, utterly fascinated when I first heard about it,” The renowned bio-psychologist shared. “And I directly saw the relevance of this language for science.”

Gunturkun has been looking into brain asymmetry study which is responsible for verbal communication. Apparently, the left hemisphere of the brain decodes spoken language or oral communication. While the right hemisphere of the brain processes music. Keeping this fact in mind, Gunturkun wanted to know how the brain hemispheres overlap with each other in order to decode messages delivered through whistling.

To know more about this, Gunturkun visited the village of Kuskoy to conduct a field test. The villagers were asked to use headphones and record themselves communicating both in spoken words and in ‘bird language.’

While the villagers were being recorded, Gunturkun played two different syllables in the left ear and in their right ear. As it turned out, people who communicate through oral language tend to hear only the syllables played to their right ear, which is being controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain.

On the other hand, those who were recorded listening to whistled syllables tend to hear it from both of their ears. This shows that the two hemispheres are being used at the same time by people who use the ‘bird language.’

“So in the end, there was a balanced contribution of both hemispheres,” Gunturkun explained the result of his study. “So indeed, depending on the way we speak, the hemispheres have a different share of work in language processing.”

The bio-psychologist is now exploring the potential of using the ‘bird language’ in helping a stroke victim, who has a damaged left hemisphere, learn how to communicate again.

The ‘bird language’ which the village of Kuskoy is famous for is in danger of being replaced by convenient smartphones. Fortunately, the villagers are exerting a joint effort in keeping their tradition and culture alive. Through their annual Bird Language Festival held each summer, the people of Kuskoy are hoping to keep the ‘bird language’ alive for the next generations to come!

Watch the fascinating video below and prepare to be amazed by the people of Kuskoy who communicates effectively even without spoken words!

Photos and Video | Vocativ

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