German researchers, as disclosed in Science Daily, have found a singularly creative language – a form of whistled Turkish that, unlike any other language on Earth, is not processed only on the left side of the brain:
“We are unbelievably lucky that such a language indeed exists,” says Onur Güntürkün of Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany. “It is a true experiment of nature.”
Whistled Turkish is exactly what it sounds like: Turkish that has been adapted into a series of whistles. This method of communicating was popular in the old days, before the advent of telephones, in small villages in Turkey as a means for long-distance communication. In comparison to spoken Turkish, whistled Turkish carries much farther. While whistled-Turkish speakers use “normal” Turkish at close range, they switch to the whistled form when at a distance of, say, 50 to 90 meters away.
Whistled Turkish isn’t a distinct language from Turkish, Güntürkün explains. It is Turkish converted into a different form, much as the text you are now reading is English converted into written form. Güntürkün, who is Turkish, says that he still found the language surprisingly difficult to understand.
The researchers examined the brain asymmetry in processing spoken versus whistled Turkish by presenting whistled-Turkish speakers with speech sounds delivered to their left or right ears through headphones. The participants then reported what they’d heard. While individuals more often perceived spoken syllables when presented to the right ear, they heard whistled sounds equally well on both sides.
Of course, you want to hear this, don’t you?