Register Shifts in Whistling: Investigating the Influence of Tongue Shape



This study examines tongue shape differentiation in whistling and how it influences pitch control during whistling tasks. In previous work, Belyk et al. (2019) used real-time magnetic resonance imaging (rtMRI) to investigate muscles utilized during whistling tasks, however, did not specifically observe register shifts or focus on tongue differentiation. Tongue shape differences in register shifts during opera singing were identified by Bengtson et al. (2023). Additionally, Kaburagi et al. (2018) used MRI to identify a shift in tongue position during whistling in a Japanese participant. This study aimed to examine tongue shape differentiation in whistlers with wide whistling ranges. We hypothesize that participants with broader whistling ranges will use a differentiated tongue shape (Gick et al. 2007) to produce a register shift. Eleven participants were analyzed based on their whistling ranges and were categorized into three groups which included a single octave, 1.5 octaves, and two octaves.  Whistling and speech tasks were completed by participants and tongue movements were recorded using ultrasound imaging. Recorded audio was transferred into recording software alongside ultrasound imaging which was analyzed using image processing software. Results of tongue positions from ultrasound imaging will be presented with relevance to whether individuals produce a differentiated tongue shape and/or a shift in their vocal register while whistling, and whether these occurrences were influenced by the participant’s L1. Results illustrated that participants with a broader whistling range displayed greater tongue differentiation, suggesting that there is a connection between whistling range and manipulating the degrees of freedom. Implications will be discussed regarding potential similarities between register changes during whistling and tongue shapes associated with speech, with particular attention to the undifferentiated tongue shape in English /ɹ/ (Delattre and Freeman, 1968).



How to Cite

Lisiecki C, Cavaco J, Choi D, Graham J, Lancaster L, Islam J, Gick B. Register Shifts in Whistling: Investigating the Influence of Tongue Shape. Canadian Acoustics [Internet]. 2024 May 12 [cited 2024 May 21];52(1). Available from:

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