Neural Processing of Whistled Languages

In this study by Manuel Carreiras, Jorge Lopez, Francisco Rivero, and David Corina, the whistled language of Silbo Gomero is shown to activate the same language-processing (right-hemisphere) parts of the brain in Silbo speakers as the spoken Spanish language does in native Spanish speakers who are unfamiliar with Silbo. Later, I hope to connect this research article with Onur Güntürkün’s study on brain asymmetries with the whistled language of the mountainous Kusköy region in Turkey. Additionally, the regions associated with interpreting non-linguistic sound (pitch, tone, etc.) in the right hemisphere show increased activity when Silbo speakers are exposed to both Spanish and Silbo.

This study is fairly unremarkable in comparison with Güntürkün’s work, but it suggests an important basic connection between speech surrogates (such as whistled languages) and spoken languages: both are processed through the left hemisphere’s language areas, but the whistled languages seem to have other regions of brain activity associated with both passive and active listening.

This study made me realize I really need to brush up on my brain region and function knowledge! This study is an important stepping stone to base whistled languages’ neural processing research off of.

This study is listed on the Le Monde Sifflée website’s research page. To read the full article, check out purchasing options on ScienceDirect.

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