Kickapoo whistled speech

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Kickapoo whistled speech is a means of communication among Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, a Kickapoo tribe in Texas and Mexico. Whistled speech is a system of whistled communication that allows subjects to transmit and exchange a potentially unlimited set of messages over long distances.[1]

Whistled speech among the Kickapoo[edit]

Whistled language occurs among the Kickapoo Indian tribe living in the Mexican state of Coahuila. Kickapoo whistle speech is a substitute for spoken Kickapoo in which the pitch and length of vowels and vowel clusters are represented while vowel qualities and consonants are not.[2]


The system of whistling was employed around 1915 by young members of the Kickapoo tribe. These individuals wanted to be able to communicate without their parents’ understanding.[3]


In order to produce whistle speech, the Kickapoo Indians cup their hands together to form a chamber. Next, they blow into the chamber with their lips placed against the knuckles of their thumbs. In order to alter the pitch of their whistle, the Kickapoo Indians lift their fingers from the back of the chamber.[2]

Use of whistle speech among Kickapoo Indians[edit]

Among the Kickapoo Indian tribe in Coahuila, Mexico, whistled speech is employed primarily for courtship purposes. Young men and women rendezvous using whistle speech each evening as a cultural tradition.[2] The whistling can be heard from dusk to as late as midnight every evening. Messages mostly consist of phrases such as "I'm thinking of you" and "Come on."[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rialland, Annie (2005). "Phonological and phonetic aspects of whistled languages". Phonology. 22 (2): 237–271. CiteSeerX doi:10.1017/S0952675705000552. Retrieved 2010-03-24.
  2. ^ a b c Voorhis, Paul H. (October 1971). "Notes on Kickapoo Whistle Speech". International Journal of American Linguistics. 37 (4): 238–243. doi:10.1086/465171. JSTOR 1264515.
  3. ^ a b Ritzenthaler, Robert E.; Peterson, Frederick A. (December 1954). "Courtship Whistling of the Mexican Kickapoo Indians". American Anthropologist. 56 (6): 1088–1089. doi:10.1525/aa.1954.56.6.02a00110. JSTOR 664763.