A whistled tone is essentially a simple oscillation (or sine wave), and thus timbral variations are impossible. Normal articulation during an ordinary lip-whistle is relatively easy though the lips move little causing a constant of labialization and making labial and labiodental consonants (p, b, m, f, etc.) problematical. "Apart from the five vowel-phonemes —and even these do not invariably have a fixed or steady pitch—all whistled speech-sound realizations are glides which are interpreted in terms of range, contour, and steepness."
In a non-tonal language, segments may be differentiated as follows:
- Vowels are replaced by a set of relative pitch ranges generally tracking the f2 formant of spoken language.
- Stress is expressed by higher pitch or increased length
- Consonants are produced by pitch transitions of different lengths and height, plus the presence or absence of occlusion. ("Labial stops are replaced by diaphragm or glottal occlusions.")
Read more about this topic: Whistled Language
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