Turkish bird language: why people in a village have been communicating by whistling for several centuries (5 photos + 1 video)

14 December 2023

Using unusual sounds, local residents invite their neighbors to tea and ask them for help.

The Black Sea region of Turkey, which consists of mountains and hills covered with forests, has its own special language - Kush Dili. Today, approximately ten thousand people know it, and it sounds like birdsong. We invite you to find out how this unique way of communication came about.

The best way to talk in the mountains

There is a village in Turkey where all the residents can speak Kush Dili, it is even taught in the local school. It is called Kushkoy, which literally means “village of birds”. It was here that bird tongue appeared about four centuries ago.

It really resembles the singing of birds and consists of whistles of different tones and durations, which are perfectly understood by local residents.

Kushköy lies among the hills, the houses of the inhabitants are located far from each other. It is probably because of this that the unusual way of communicating by whistling appeared. It was difficult to shout to the neighbor, and people just started whistling. Soon they started talking to each other by whistling. They passed on their knowledge to children, and the youth happily learned to whistle. So this tradition was consolidated from generation to generation. Residents of Kushköy still prefer the whistle to the telephone.

Gadgets are a threat to traditions

The advent of smartphones has threatened the extinction of kush dili, because now instead of whistling, you can just call. However, older people still more often use bird language to communicate at a distance with loved ones and acquaintances, even though they have gadgets. Turks love the language of their ancestors and are afraid that it will disappear. The risk is actually great, since young people are actively leaving the village, because there is very little work here.

To prevent the tradition of unusual communication from disappearing, a festival of bird language and local culture has been held in the village since 1997. Several years ago, UNESCO drew attention to the problem: as a result, kush dili now has the status of an intangible heritage of Turkey. All residents are actively preparing for the holiday and always welcome guests. They converted some old buildings into hotels for tourists.

The language is also taught at a local school: first they teach the anatomy of the mouth and teeth, and why sound technology. One of the Turkish universities even has an elective course where students learn kush dili. We also invite you to watch a video about visiting Kuskoy, which clearly shows how people communicate here.

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