The phonemes and morphemes of the language Silbo Gomero are loud whistles instead of conventional vocalizations. Used by shepherds of the Canary Islands to communicate over long distances, Silbo is actually a stripped-down form of Spanish in which whistle sounds substitute for “normal” Spanish speech sounds. Despite its highly unusual structure and mode of transmission, communication with Silbo involves the same brain mechanisms as in any other language. Here you can listen to a conversation in Silbo; English and Spanish translations are provided below.

Spanish

English

¡SERVANDO!

Servando!

¿QUÉ?

What?

MIRA, DILE A JULIO QUE VAYA Y QUE TRAIGA LAS CHÁCARAS.

Look, tell Julio to go and to bring the chácaras.

YA VOY.

I’m all over it.

¡JULIO!

Julio!

¿QUÉ?

What?

QUE DICE LILÍ QUE AVISES A LOS MUCHACHOS Y QUE TRAIGAN LAS CHÁCARAS PARA LA FIESTA.

Tell Lilí to notify the boys and that they should bring the chácaras for the party.

BUENO, BUENO, BUENO.

Good, good, good.

[Silbo sample audio: Courtesy of www.agulo.net]