Chronological Bibliography for the
"Compilation of Selected References to
the Gomeran Whistling Language"
(with comments)

J.Brent © 1991

Castillo y Ruiz de la Vergara, P.A. del
"Descripción de las Canarias"
1686/1737 [book]

This book quite possibly contains the very first reference to the whistling language of La Gomera, and is found in the account of Peraza the Younger's death. Wölfel says that the original 1686 manuscript is in the Museo Canario on Gran Canaria (Canary Islands). The Museo Canario, however, says it isn't. Therefore, I've only seen the later version.

Marín y Cubas, T.A.
"Historia de las siete Islas de Canaria"
1687/1694 [book]

If the first reference to the Gomeran whistling language is not to be found in Castillo's 1686 MS, it is certain to be found here. Once again, I have been unable to see the original, but Marín y Cubas is known as a great embellisher (for instance, in the story of Peraza's death in 1488 he goes into detail about the type and color of the clothes Peraza was wearing, which no other chronicler mentions), and so I prefer to believe that Castillo was the first. If you find an earlier reference, please let the world know.

Bethencourt Alfonso, J.
"El Silbo Articulado en La Gomera"
Revista de Canarias No. 71
Nov. 8, 1881 [article]

This article, while not scientific in any sense of the word, is the first of its kind attempting to bring notice to the little known island of La Gomera and its phenomenal form of whistled communication.

Quedenfeldt, M. (Bethencourt Alfonso, Bolle, Fritsche, Manrique)
"Pfeifsprache auf der Insel Gomera"
<Zeitschrift für Ethnologie> XIX
1887 [article]

Quedenfeldt had the right idea, but he was stumped for a form of representation. Unfortunately for him, common musical notation will never be capable of charting the nuances of whistled speech, and spectrograms/sonograms had not been invented yet.

Verneau, R.
"Cinq Années de Sejour aux Isles Canaries"
1891 [article]

Dr. Verneau's experiences with the whistling language of La Gomera (while visiting the island during his stay in the Canaries) have been recounted in almost every paper and book subsequently written on the subject.

Lajard, M.
<Bulletin de la Société d'anthropologie de Paris 2, 469-483>
1891 [article]

Lajard has the honor of being the first one to "crack the code". In view of how often Dr. Verneau has been quoted, it is a pity that Verneau never saw this article.

Brown, A.S.
"Madeira, Canary Islands and Azores" 8th ed.
1905 [book]

This travelogue contains interesting anecdotes of the whistling language's uses.

Verneau, R.
"Le Langage sans Paroles"
<L'Anthropologie> Tome XXXIII
1923 [article]

This article repeats, almost word for word, Verneau's experiences on La Gomera which were published in 1891.

Hooten, E.A.
"The Ancient Inhabitants of the Canary Islands"
<Harvard African Studies> Vol. VII
1925 [article]

A compilation of all that had been written, by that time, on the subject of the Canary Islands.

Wölfel, D.J.
"Los gomeros vendidos por Pedro de Vera y Beatrix de Bobadilla"
<El Museo Canario Band 1>
1930 [article]

Deals with the sale of Gomeran christians as slaves after the rebellion of 1488.

Ricard, R.
"Apropos du Language Sifflé des Canaries"
<Hesperis> XV
1, 1932 [article]

General overview, nothing new.

Bethencourt Alfonso, J. (Espinosa, Lajard, Bonnet, De Cavin, Alvarez Cruz)
"Opiniones de varios escritores, El lenguaje silbado en la Gomera"
1954 [booklet]

A little pulp booklet which, as the title suggests, is a collection of opinions. It was probably sold in kiosks for tourist consumption.

National Geographic Magazine (Canary Islands)
April 1955

Here the whistling language of La Gomera is described as a true, living language.

Classe, A.
"Phonetics of the Silbo Gomero"
Vol. IX <Archivum Linguisticum>
1956 [article]

The first scientific treatise on the subject.

Classe, A.
"The Whistled Language of La Gomera"
<Scientific American>
1957 [article]

Wraps up the main conclusions of Classe's 1956 work in a journalistic format.

Classe, A.
"Extraño Lenguaje Silbado en Las Islas Canarias"
<El Correo de la Unesco>
Nov. 1957 [article]

As above, but in Spanish.

Classe, A.
"The Silbo: Whistled Language of La Gomera"
<The New Scientist>
1958 [article]

As in <Scientific American>.

Classe, A.
"La Fonetica del Silbo Gomero"
<Revista de Historia>
1959 [article]

Classe's 1956 work translated into Spanish by the University of La Laguna, Tenerife.

Hasler, J.A.
"El lenguaje silbado"
Revista de la Universidad Veracruzana, no. 15
1960 [book]

This primarily deals with Native Mexican Indian whistling languages, but there is a short section on the Gomeran Whistling Language at the end.

Classe, A.
"Les langues sifflées, squelettes informatifs du langage"
A. Moles & Valencien (eds.)
Communications et Langages
Paris 1963 [article]

More of Classes's same conclusions.

Wölfel, D.J.
Monumenta Lingua Canarie (pages 395-8)
<Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt>
1965 [article]

A linguistic analysis of the legendary phrase "ajeliles juxaques aventamares" uttered by Peraza the Younger's mistress, the Gomeran princess Iballa, just before Peraza's death.

Busnel, R.-G.
"Information in the Human Whistled Language and Sea Mammal Whistling"
<University of California Press>
1966 [article]

Busnel puts forth the hypothesis that men and delphinidae could communicate with each other by means of a whistled language such as the one on La Gomera.

Siemens Hernandez, L.
"Instrumentos de sonido entre los habitantes pre-hispanicos de Las Islas Canarias"
<Anuario de Estudios Atlanticos>
1969 [article]

This short article mentions Gomera's whistling language and other instances of what seems to be communicative whistling on Gran Canaria and Tenerife.

Nowak, H.
"SILBO GOMERO Die Pfeifsprache der Kanaren Insel Gomera"
197(?) [article]

Nowak heads a center for Canarian studies in Vienna, Austria. These are his opinions and anecdotes "for the record".

Cousteau, J.-Y.
1975 [book]

In this book Cousteau suggests the whistling language could be the beginning of communication between man and dolphins. Dr. Cousteau's opinion has now been modified to the more realistic realization that humans and porpoises have very little in common, and language as we know it is very probably something completely foreign to them.

Busnel, R.-G./Classe, A.
"Whistled Languages"
1976 [book]

Busnel sums up his earlier papers on the whistling languages of Turkey and France. Classe reiterates and fleshes out his conclusions from his 1956 work. A very impressive book, however Classe's phonetic breakdown seems to stem from subjective analysis rather than from a careful examination of a large body of empirical data gathered from native whistlers. There are only 2 sonograms of Gomeran whistles in this book.

Sebeok, Thomas A. (editor)
"Speech Surrogates: Drum and Whistle Systems"
MOUTON, The Hague - Paris
1976 [book]

I sure wish I'd known about this book before I started running around to libraries all over the world trying to track down references to the Gomeran whistling language! This remains the most complete compilation of surrogate communication systems ever published, even though a few relatively important references are missing.

Trujillo, R.
"EL SILBO GOMERO análisis lingüístico"
English title: "The Gomeran Whistle - linguistic analysis"
1978 [book] (English translation 1990)

This book is basically a refutation of many of Classe's phonetic conclusions, with over 80 spectrograms to support Trujillo's claims. Trujillo worked off of the 1959 Spanish translation ("La Fonetica del Silbo Gomero") of Classe's 1956 original, and was, unfortunately, completely unaware of the Busnel/Classe 1976 collaboration "Whistled Languages". Trujillo is currently working on a new revised English version, which will take into account Busnel/Classe's 1976 work.

Mercer, J.
"The Canary Islanders"
1980 [book]

My only criticism of this incredibly comprehensive book is lack of footnotes - It was sometimes very difficult to track down the primary source of various references. All in all, the late Mercer's 1980 work is probably the definitive compilation in English of the most relevant points in the history of the Canary Islands.


If you've found the information above to be useful,
Please drop a tip in the Tip Jar by clicking on the "Tip Jar" box below!

Ain't I been good to you?

back to
Silbo References Compilation

back to Home

copyright © 2006 Jeff Brent


If you've found your way to this page from a Search Engine link,
please click here to enter home.
(This link will take you to the entire web site.)