NPR’s All Things Considered has done a show on whistling language in Alaska (you can listen to it at the linked page):

Alaska is home to at least 20 Alaska native languages plus countless individual dialects. It’s also home to whistling as dialogue. The Yupik Eskimos and their Russian cousins have long practiced this form of communication. Alaska Public Radio’s Gabriel Spitzer reports.

I wish they had broadcast some actual St. Lawrence Yupik as well as the whistled versions, but it’s only a four-minute segment, and it’s a lot of fun just the way it is. Thanks for the link go to Songdog, who reminds me I’ve posted about whistling talk in the Canary Islands.


  1. Thank you for this notice. As someone who is part Yupik as well as a linguist, I will listen to this broadcast segment with great interest. I have been on St. Lawrence Island. The fierce winds there set a good example of whistling, around corners, snowdrifts, over the surf!

  2. I seem to remember watching a documentary, some years ago, where they talked about whistling languages and also featured a yodeling language. I’ve been unable to find anything about it on the multifarious internets. Have you ever come across any articles or sites about yodeling as a language?

  3. No, but if you do find a link about it, let me know.

  4. There is a whistling language used in the Canary Islands, particularly on La Gomera, called “Silbo”. (http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/science/11/18/whistle.language.ap/)(http://tellicherry0.tripod.com/whistlinglang.htm)
    There is also a whistle language used among the Mazatec Indians in Mexico. http://www.jaars.org/museum/alphabet/modern/mazatec.htm

  5. I guess whistling would work on the phone, but yodeling might not (too loud). Are there any languages with phonemes that don’t work well on the phone?

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