Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.a.5

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Turkey has nominated Whistled language (No. 00658) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Whistled language is a method of communication that uses whistling to simulate and articulate words. The practice developed as a result of the steep mountains and rugged topography of the region, which required the local population to find an alternative way to communicate across long distances. The practitioners are mainly agricultural communities who spend most of their lives outdoors. The communities concerned consider this practice to be a key reflection of their cultural identity, which reinforces interpersonal communication and solidarity. Although the community is aware of the importance of this practice, technological developments and socioeconomic changes have led to a decline in the number of practitioners and areas where it is spoken. One of the key threats to the practice is the use of mobile phones. The new generation’s interest in whistled language has diminished considerably and there is a risk that the element will be gradually torn from its natural environment, becoming an artificial practice. In spite of such threats, the communities have been actively promoting this linguistic practice both nationally and internationally to ensure its sustainability, and whistled language is still transmitted from generation to generation in the context of parent-child relations through both formal and informal methods.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

U.1:   The element constitutes intangible cultural heritage and reinforces social bonds among local people living in a rugged environment. It is a cultural means of expression used by all segments of society and reflects human creativity through the capacity to comprehend a potentially unlimited number of messages. It is transmitted through parent-child relations and supported by informal and non-formal education.

U.2:   The threats described encompass recent socio-economic changes, more specifically the decline in the number of practitioners, primarily older people, and a lack of interest among young people. Rural-urban migrations and the decrease in locations in which the element is practised worsen the prospects of it being sustained. The influence of the mass media and the increased use of mobile phones are also identified among the threats.

U.3:   The four-year safeguarding plan is well elaborated and feasible; it includes measures such as research and fieldwork activities, documentation through the production of films, the identification of and support for tradition bearers, along with their localities, and the promotion of the element through festivals involving the participation of communities. Some specific measures include: a village-based pilot project to teach parents who use the whistled language how to transmit the element to their children; the formation of a civil committee targeting youth in this context; the organization of project-based competitions; whistle language certification programmes and the provision of promotional materials.

U.4:   Communities were involved both in the early stages of research into the element and later in the nomination process. Community members voluntarily contributed to the conception of the file, which is the visible outcome of collaboration between researchers, government bodies and associations. Personalized free, prior and informed consent letters from community members and practitioners are provided.

U.5:   With the full involvement of its bearers, the element was included in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Turkey in 2010, which is managed and regularly updated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

  1. Inscribes Whistled language on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Reminds the State Party to take particular heed of the impact of tourism and undue commercialization on the safeguarding of the element in order to prevent its decontextualization.