The Gomero whistle

Gomero whistle

El rubber whistle It belongs to a group of unspoken languages ​​that have their roots in Antiquity. Since the beginning of the human being, he has sought ways to communicate with his fellow humans. In principle, it did not do so through grammatically structured languages, but through sounds and gestures.

Therefore, this type of languages ​​is found in the very essence of our race. It is true that in the case of the Gomero whistle the motivations that originated it are different, as we will see. But, deep down, it also responds to that communication need. So that you know better this modality of whistled language, we are going to explain everything you need to know about the Gomero whistle.

What is the Gomero whistle?

La Gomera

The peculiar orography of La Gomera led to the invention of a language to communicate at a distance

As we told you and its own name indicates, it is a whistled language used by the inhabitants of the Canary Island of La Gomera to communicate at a distance. However, similar formulas existed in others such as Tenerife, El Hierro and even Gran Canaria.

But, above all, the first of them has a unique orography of great mountains and ravines. Therefore, when the inhabitants of one town needed to warn those of another about something, they had to travel long distances over difficult terrain and often did not arrive in time. To avoid this, they invented this whistled language mode that all of them knew and that allowed them to send notices with maximum speed and ease.

Establishing a simple comparison, it would be something like a primitive version of the morse language which was used before the invention of the telephone. However, the Gomero whistle is much older and has obtained recognition from Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. This leads us to tell you about its history.

History of this whistled language

Gomero whistle teacher

Currently, whistling is taught in schools. In the photo, a teacher of this language

The Gomero whistle has its origin even before the arrival of the Spanish to the Canary Islands. It is not known for sure if it was native or was brought by the berbers who arrived in La Gomera. The point is that the guanches They used it as a sound transmitter of their language. In other words, it was not a closed language, but a way of expressing a language through whistling. In fact, with the arrival of the Castilians, Guanche was gradually lost to be replaced by Spanish and the Gomero whistle. adapted to the latter.

It continued to be used between the 16th and 20th centuries. But, with the arrival of new communications, both physical and technological, it fell into disuse until it found itself in serious danger of disappearance. Only about ten older people on the entire island knew him. This caused the intervention of the Government of the Canary Islands, which declared it Ethnographic Heritage of the islands. At the same time, she introduced the study of him in schools. All this, together with the aforementioned declaration of Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2009, has caused a resurgence of the Gomero whistle.

On the other hand, the first scholar to investigate it in depth was Juan Bethencourt Alfonso in the XIX century. Thanks to this, even German and English scholars noticed him. But the great popularizer of it was, already in the 20th century, the professor at the University of La Laguna Ramon Trujillo, who published the most serious studies and even created a chair of whistle.

Currently, he enjoys very good health. It continues to be taught in schools and whistler exhibitions are organized. Even, in a kind of conjugation between ancient and modern, there is a computer application that spreads it. It is called, precisely, I whistle and also allows you to learn their language.

As a curiosity, we will tell you that the Gomero whistle even has a Guinness record. It is the one that recognizes the most distant conversation between two people without using support instruments. In this case, the distance was eight kilometers and, thanks to the whistle, both understood each other perfectly.

What is the Gomero whistle like?

Interpreting the whistle

A man expressing himself with the Gomero whistle

We do not want to bore you with technical terms of the language to explain what the Gomero whistle is like. Therefore, we will summarize it by telling you that, broadly speaking, replaces vowels and consonants with whistled sounds. In turn, these sounds differ both for its extension and for its tonality. However, it has fewer phonemes than spoken language. That is, the same tone can represent several sounds. That's why, context is also very important.

Judging by all this, his learning has some complexity. It requires strength in the parts of the body used to emit it and also physical precision and a lot of practice. In this sense, the oral cavity must be placed in different positions and helped with the hands. Despite this, its teaching has not changed since the 19th century. The same learning strategies continue to be used.

In any case, it is a very complete language. According to the studies carried out by the aforementioned Ramón Trujillo, he uses a total of six sounds, two vowels and four consonants. but with them up to four thousand words can be expressed.

Current situation and future of this language

Poster about the whistle

Poster announcing a silbo gomero teaching workshop

As we told you, in recent years there has been a great recovery of the Gomero whistle. In addition to the silbo chair to investigate it, the Government of the Canary Islands has turned it into subject of the primary and secondary education curriculum. On the other hand, it has created a Whistle School for adults who want to learn it.

At the same time, many materials have been digitized related to this language and even documentaries have been filmed to spread it. In this sense, the whistle has reached the Festival de Cine de Cannes. It was thanks to the Romanian film titled La Gomera, by director Corneliu Porumboiu. It tells the story of a member of the mafia who travels to the island to learn it and, thus, be able to communicate with his cronies while evading police control.

But the great support for the Gomero whistle came from UNESCO with the aforementioned declaration of this language as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. For all this, the curious whistled language of La Gomera enjoys excellent health and very promising future prospects.

In conclusion, now you know more about the rubber whistle. We can only advise you to visit the beautiful canary island where it originatedWith its beautiful landscapes and towns full of charm. Go ahead and meet her and discover this peculiar communication system.


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