Whistled and drummed forms of language belong to the people who use them. They are fascinating because they have been selected through generations to be adapted to the environments where these people live. I’m hoping to contribute to the
revival of their belief in their own culture.
Unknown to most people, and often considered as curiosities by linguists and acousticians, whistled and drummed forms of languages have been used the world over for centuries, if not millennia. In many areas of the world, especially in
remote villages, often strong whistles resembling birdsong or sequences of sharp percussions cut through the air as local people send a long-distance message to those with whom they need to communicate.<br><br>Julien Meyer
was fascinated by these age-old practices that transform spoken sounds to notes and rhythms and are easily transmitted in natural environments. He has dedicated his skills to preserving a dozen whistled and drummed languages, which,
while very different from the voice, are still intelligible as speech by trained people. Meyer has shown how these languages are good indicators of the vitality of traditional knowledge in endangered and little known regions of the
planet. With the help of his Rolex Award, he also developed documentation on an interactive Internet site, The World Whistles, creating an archive and recordings dedicated to these fast-disappearing languages.<br><br>Meyer,
who recently published a book, <i>Whistled Languages: A Worldwide Inquiry on Human Whistled Speech</i> (2015), is now a research fellow of the Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions programme at the French National Center for Scientific
Research (CNRS) in Grenoble for a project called Icon-Eco-Speech.