Shelta (/ˈʃɛltə/; Irish: Seiltis) is a language spoken by
Irish Travellers, particularly in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
It is widely known as the Cant, to its native speakers in Ireland as
De Gammon, and to the linguistic community as Shelta. It was often
used as a cryptolect to exclude outsiders from comprehending
conversations between Travellers, although this aspect is
frequently over-emphasised. The exact number of native speakers is
hard to determine due to sociolinguistic issues but
1 Names and etymology
2 Origins and history 3 Linguistic features
3.1 Lexicon 3.2 Grammar 3.3 Phonology
4 Loanwords 5 Orthography 6 Comparison texts 7 See also 8 References 9 Bibliography 10 External links
Names and etymology
The language is known by various names. People outside the Traveller
community often refer to it as (the) Cant, the etymology of which is a
matter of debate. Speakers of the language refer to it as (the)
Cant, Gammon or Tarri. Amongst linguists, the name Shelta
is the most commonly used term.
Variants of the above names and additional names include Bog Latin,
Caintíotar, Gammon, Sheldru, Shelter,
Shelteroch, the Ould Thing, Tinker's Cant.
Shelta appears in print for the first time in 1882 in the
book The Gypsies by the "gypsiologist" Charles Leland, who claimed to
have discovered it as the "fifth Celtic tongue". The etymology of the
word has long been a matter of debate: Modern Celticists are convinced
that Irish siúl Irish pronunciation: [ʃuːlʲ] "to walk" is at
the root, either via a term such as siúltóir Irish
pronunciation: [ʃuːlˠt̪ˠoːrʲ] "a walker" or a form of the
gerund siúladh (cf. an lucht siúlta [ənˠ lˠuxt̪
ʃuːlˠt̪ˠə], "the walking people" (lit. the people of walks),
the traditional Irish term for Travellers). The Dictionary of
Irish Travelers use a secret argot or cant known as Gammon. It is used primarily to conceal meaning from outsiders, especially during business transactions and in the presence of police. Most Gammon utterances are terse and spoken so quickly that a non-Traveler might conclude the words merely had been garbled. Most Gammon words were formed from Irish by applying four techniques: reversal, metathesis, affixing, and substitution. In the first, an Irish word is reversed to form a Gammon one – mac, or son, in Irish became kam in Gammon. In the second, consonants or consonant clusters were transposed. Thirdly, a sound or cluster of sounds were either prefixed or suffixed to an Irish word. Some of the more frequently prefixed sounds were s, gr, and g. For example, Obair, work or job, became gruber in Gammon. Lastly, many Gammon words were formed by substituting an arbitrary consonant or consonant cluster in an Irish word. In recent years, modern slang and Romani (the language of the gypsies) words have been incorporated. The grammar and syntax are English. The first vocabulary collected from Irish Travelers was published in 1808, indicating that Gammon dates at least back to the 1700s. But many early Celtic scholars who studied it, including the eminent Kuno Meyer, concluded it was much older.
Thus, it is not mutually intelligible with either English or Irish,
out of design.
Shelta words have been disguised using techniques such as back
slang where sounds are transposed (for example gop "kiss" from Irish
póg) or the addition of sounds (for example gather "father" from
Irish athair). Other examples include lackeen "girl" from Irish
cailín, and the word rodas "door" from Irish doras.
It also contains a certain number of introduced lexical items from
Romani such as the term gadje "non-Traveller" or "kushti" (from the
De Golya nacked de greid The child stole the money
Krosh into de rog Get into the car
De Feen The man
De Byor The Woman
Front N.-front Central Back
Shelta words have been borrowed by mainstream English speakers,
such as the word "bloke" meaning "a man" in the mid-19th century.
There is no standard orthography. Broadly speaking,
Shelta can either
be written following an Irish-type orthography or an English-type
orthography. For example, the word for "married" can either be spelled
lósped or lohsped, a "woman" can either be spelled byohr or beoir.
Below are reproductions of the
Mwilsha's gater, swart a manyath, Our gathra, who cradgies in the manyak-norch, Our Father, who art in heaven, Ár n-Athair atá ar neamh,
Manyi graw a kradji dilsha's manik. We turry kerrath about your moniker. Hallowed be thy name. Go naofar d'ainm,
Graw bi greydid, sheydi laadu Let's turry to the norch where your jeel cradgies, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, Go dtaga do ríocht, Go ndéantar do thoil
Az aswart in manyath. And let your jeel shans get greydied nosher same as it is where you cradgie. On earth as it is in heaven. ar an talamh, mar a dhéantar ar neamh.
Bag mwilsha talosk minyart goshta dura. Bug us eynik to lush this thullis, Give us today our daily bread. Ár n-arán laethúil tabhair dúinn inniú,
Geychel aur shaaku areyk mwilsha And turri us you're nijesh sharrig for the eyniks we greydied And forgive us our trespasses, Agus maith dúinn ár bhfiacha
Geychas needjas greydi gyamyath mwilsha. Just like we ain't sharrig at the needies that greydi the same to us. As we forgive those who trespass against us. Mar a mhaithimid ár bhfiachóirí féin
Nijesh solk mwil start gyamyath, Nijesh let us soonie eyniks that'll make us greydi gammy eyniks, And lead us not into temptation, Is ná lig sinn i gcathú
Bat bog mwilsha ahim gyamyath. But solk us away from the taddy. but deliver us from evil. ach saor sinn ó olc.
Diyil the sridag, taajirath an manyath
Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory
Gradum a gradum.
For ever and ever
Irish Travellers Snatch (film) Beurla Reagaird Bungi Creole
^ a b
R. A. Stewart Macalister
Shelta lexicon and pronunciation guide
v t e
Languages of the Republic of Ireland
Irish Sign Language
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Celtiberian Cisalpine Gaulish Galatian Gallaecian Gaulish Lepontic Noric
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Beurla Reagaird Shelta
Gaeltacht Gàidhealtachd Y Fro Gymraeg Lower Brittany Cape Breton Island Y Wladfa
Irish medium education Gaelic medium education Manx medium education Welsh medium education Breton medium education Cornish medium nursery
Italics indicate extinct or ancestor languages
v t e
List of Irish Travellers Robert Barker Francie Barrett Margaret Barry John Doherty Paddy Doherty Johnny Doran Pecker Dunne Brendon Fearon Hughie Fury Tyson Fury Michael Gomez John Joe Joyce Nan Joyce Andy Lee John Joe Nevin
Halting site Irish Travellers Knacker Pavee Point Shelta Tinker
Dunsink St Mary Cray St Paul's Cray White Settlement
Dale Farm Death of John Ward Operation Netwing
List of depictions Big Fat Gypsy Weddings Into the West Pavee Lackeen Snatch The Rich