Is Shelta Related To Irish Language? 📚: How is Shelta related to the Irish language? But first and foremost, what even is Shelta and how relevant is it to Irish Gaelic? We talk about that and more in this blog.


A couple of years ago, RTE Ireland sat down five children for an interview known as ‘In other words’, as part of the Cruinniú na nÓg 2020 in which they translated English words into Gammon or the Cant language, putting all of that in a video.


The video aims to highlight Ireland’s rich linguistic and ethnic diversity by sharing words used in daily life by members of the Traveller community including children.


In addition, this video featured Kitty McAleer talking and asking her children named Margaret, Jack and Kate McAleer, along with her nephews Bill and Johnny Connors to translate everyday words from English to Gammon. FluentIrish suggests that you click the link we have provided and check out what they have to say.


This caught some of my friends’ attentions, with them just starting to learn everything Irish-related when I showed it as they have not heard of the terms uttered in the interview.


Shelta, Irish Travellers?


Of course, that is to be expected as Gammon, Cant or Shelta is a creole Irish language learned, developed and used by the Mincéirs (Mincéirí), or simply the Irish Travellers. As a result, the wheels began turning, and we decided to impart some knowledge not just with our friends but also with our readers about the language of Irish Travellers.


Below, we discuss everything you need to know about Shelta, Gammon and/or Cant. So naturally, we suggest you to read on to learn more about how Shelta (we will mainly call the language Shelta in this blog) is related to the Irish language.



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Here is how Shelta is related to the Irish language


Shelta, as mentioned above, is known as the language used by Irish Travellers in Ireland and the United Kingdom. It is generally known as Cant, native speaker in Ireland know it as Gammon, whilst the linguistics community refer to it as Shelta. It is a cousin of sorts of the old Irish – a mixed language that stems from Irish Travellers that mainly spoke Irish back then. To make things easier, think of Shelta as a mix between English and Irish. Generally, Shelta was believed to have been conceived in the 18th century, but may even be older.


Current speakers of Shelta are difficult to determine as of the moment, mainly due to sociolinguistic issues. Ethnologue stated, however, that there are approximately 30,000 speakers of Shelta in the UK, 6,000 in in Ireland and an astounding 50,000 in the US!


Moreover, Shelta, through the Irish Travellers immersing in other languages, was heavily based on Hiberno-English with significant Irish influences. The Irish Travellers mainly used this language for a major reason: to not let any outsiders in on when they converse – a cryptolect or a secret language.


Who are the Irish Travellers?


In this blog, I kept mentioning the Irish Travellers, but they still have not gotten the proper introduction, so let me mention who they are. This way, you may see more of how Shelta and the Irish language are related.


Irish Travellers, also known as Pavees or Mincéirs (Mincéirí in Shelta) are a nomadic ethno-cultural group that, of course, originated in Ireland. Although they originated in Ireland, they mainly speak the English language.


However, along with their predominantly English-speaking population, a majority of them still speak Shelta. Along with the initial Irish Travellers, Ireland and the Irish Traveller diaspora also spoke Shelta.


They initally spoke Irish for a period of time. This all changed in the next period as bilingualism took over the Travellers, a time when Irish and Hiberno-English set it, which led to creolisation.


Many incorrectly refer to them as ‘Gypsies’ or ‘White Gypsies’ as no one initially know their origin. It was speculated that by scholars that they descended from a race of pre-Celtic minstrels. According to Slate

and that their ranks were swelled by displaced farmers during Oliver Cromwell’s bloody campaigns of the mid-1600s. Travellers once roamed from town to town in horse-drawn carts, earning their keep by busking and tinsmithing; because of the latter vocation, they were nicknamed “Tinkers,” a word that’s now considered something of a slur.


They are also unrelated genetically to the Romani. However, the Irish Travellers did intermarry with the Romani in England, resulting in plenty of Travellers in England having Romani blood.


History suggest that Travellers have Irish roots and that they have diverged from the main Irish population in the 1600s, during the time of Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. As a result of their divergence from the main Irish population, their genetics became different.


How Shelta is related to the Irish language: some more information and conclusion


To conclude, Shelta, in essence, is broken Irish and English combined for Irish Travellers to use as a secret language. It is mainly encompassed by the rules of English grammars, but Shelta also has a mixture of Gaelic and Irish words as well.


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Now that we have shared with you some things that you should know about how Shelta, Gammon and/or Cant is related to the Irish language, we also want to discuss with you how we can help you in everything Irish-related.


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