Ilkim Ozbek – Ancient Whistled Language and Its Modern Day Usage in Turkey

My research study for my undergraduate honors thesis was on the Turkish whistled language, one of the few surviving examples of whistled speech around the world. I conducted a field study including surveys and interviews with the whistlers in the village of Kuskoy in Turkey to explore the change in the extent of whistled language use. My aim was to determine the level of endangerment of the language and to predict whether the language will survive among future generations. As a result of my study, I found that use of whistled speech in Kuskoy declined significantly due to several factors including common technology use, improved infrastructure within the area and changing economic activities in rural areas in Turkey. I also made a detailed analysis of the efforts to preserve the language by the locals and relevant authorities and their effectiveness. I successfully completed my project and even had the chance to present it at the Tulane Conference on Linguistics in spring 2019.

The funding I received from Newcomb-Tulane College helped me fund my trip to Kuskoy. I was able to safely travel to Kuskoy and complete the most crucial part of my research thanks to the generosity of NTC. The study helped me apply the knowledge I gained from my studies at Tulane over the years to an extensive research study, and I am proud of my thesis as the first product of my academic career.

Written by Ilkim Ozbek, Dean’s Grant recipient, 2018-2019