Shelta is a language spoken by parts of the Irish Traveller people. The language is also known less commonly as Gammon, Sheldru, or simply the Cant.
Shelta's vocabulary is based largely on Irish Gaelic (with many words inverted in a style not unlike French verlan slang), while its structure contains many similarities with English. It also contains elements of Romany languages, though the Travellers are not actual Roma. Although heavily influenced by non-Celtic languages, Shelta is classified as part of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic language family.
There are approximately 86,000 worldwide speakers of Shelta, with anywhere from 6,000-25,000 in Ireland itself according to various sources. The language is spoken almost exclusively by Travellers, though linguists have documented Shelta since at least the 1870s. Both Celtic expert Kuno Meyer and Romany expert John Sampson assert that Shelta existed as far back as the 13th century.
The word "Shelta" itself likely derives from the Irish word "siúlta", meaning "walking". This refers to the nomadic lifestyle of the Travellers, as well as the fact that they were commonly referred to for a time as "the Walking People" by English speakers in Ireland.
Shelta's vocabulary is based largely on Irish, with many words inverted in a style not unlike French verlan slang; for example, the word for 'girl' is lackeen, from the Irish cailÃn, and the word rodas, meaning door, has its roots in the Irish doras.
Although heavily influenced by non-Celtic languages, Shelta is sometimes mistakenly classified as part of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic language family; it is, in fact, a cant based on Irish and English, with a primarily English-based syntax.
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