Interspeech'2005 - Eurospeech

Lisbon, Portugal
September 4-8, 2005

Whistled Speech: A Natural Phonetic Description of Languages Adapted to Human Perception and to the Acoustical Environment

Julien Meyer

DDL-CNRS, France

The scientific study of the whistled speech of several languages has already provided an alternative point of view on many aspects of language. After a general overview on the phenomenon, this paper develops a comparative analysis of several whistled forms of non tonal languages which are still in use. Meanwhile, the vocalic and consonantal reductions observed in this type of whistled speech are detailed thanks to a typological approach. It sheds a new light on the main aspects of the encoding strategy thanks to results of acoustic propagation and perceptive tests. Actually, whistled languages naturally take advantage of a narrow band of frequencies to focus on key elements of the phonology. They carry an essential part of the linguistic information that the listeners are able to recognize if they have overcome a long period of learning. Therefore, they can be seen as phonetic descriptions of local languages. Such properties are enabled by whistles which are remarkably adapted to the perceptive capacities of human beings and to the natural acoustic environment.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Meyer, Julien (2005): "Whistled speech: a natural phonetic description of languages adapted to human perception and to the acoustical environment", In INTERSPEECH-2005, 49-52.