New life for ‘bird language’; It is dream come true for Kuskoy village

Kuskoy village of Northern Turkey is a perfect offbeat destination. The hilly region, known for its unique bird language, is making headlines as UNESC0 included the language in Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Whistling is a common practice, used largely to complement the spoken languages, all over the world. But, whistling itself becoming the language for communication is a rare thing. This unusual practice, which was once the trademark of black sea villagers, is now confined to a small village in Northern Turkey.  UNESCO has now accepted this whistle language, popularly known as bird language, as an endangered part of world heritage needing urgent protection.

What is bird language?

Bird language become a form of communication almost 500 years ago during the Ottoman Empire. This unusual but effective language was wide spread across Black Sea regions. For centuries the language has been passed on, from grandparent to parent, from parent to child. Now only around 10,000 people living in Kuskoy village of Canakci District in Giresun province use this language on daily bases.

The bird language used in Kuskoy isn’t its own unique language but its basic Turkish in which spoken syllables have been replaced with whistled tones. In other word it is simply whistling in Turkish. Highly-developed and high pitch system of whistling evolved as a communication method because of the geographical limitations of the hilly area, where most of the times people cannot see each other.

Whistled communication has fascinated linguists and researchers for years, because it needs the coordinated work of both the hemispheres of the brain, unlike common languages.

Technology, the villain!!

It is Modern conveniences that kill the bird language. Though 80 percentage of the people of Kuskoy village use this method of communication successfully, younger generations are not interested in following the custom. Mobile coverage is slowly expanding into hilly area that people are more interested in these new methods for communication. When it is easy to make a call or text message, who will waste time and energy in whistling?

Young people are no longer interested in learning the language, nor in updating its vocabulary with new words. It is found that young women barely use the language these days, and young men learn it more as a point of pride than for any practical purpose.

Kuskoy has started measures to protect the language from early 90’s. Village is conducting annual bird language festival from 1997, where people come together to practice, improve, and share in their heritage .For the past three years whistle language is taught at primary schools of the village. With the new initiatives from UNESCO to protect the language by entering it in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, these efforts are reaching the goal.