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Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?

InOBU 04 Sep 03 - 04:08 PM
GUEST 04 Sep 03 - 04:32 PM
InOBU 04 Sep 03 - 04:46 PM
GUEST 04 Sep 03 - 08:44 PM
Sorcha 04 Sep 03 - 09:42 PM
GUEST 05 Sep 03 - 10:21 AM
Nerd 05 Sep 03 - 03:24 PM
InOBU 06 Sep 03 - 12:50 PM
GUEST,Paul 14 Sep 11 - 08:23 AM
Jack Campin 14 Sep 11 - 08:34 AM
Mysha 14 Sep 11 - 08:56 AM
open mike 14 Sep 11 - 11:48 AM
Mysha 14 Sep 11 - 12:44 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?
From: InOBU
Date: 04 Sep 03 - 04:08 PM

On the Uileann Pipe thread this question was raised. Let me weigh in on it in a new thread so there is no thread creep...

ALL people who speak a language not shared by others in a deel tend to use that language among themselves during a transaction, anyone who does not believe this - come to New York, where there are at least 40 some languages spoken and ALWAYS in a store when price is discussed folks behind the counter use their native tongue, this does not mean that Bangala, Cantonese, Gaelic, Russian, Ukrainian, Finnish, Norweegian, Vietnamese, Korean, Macidonian, Romaness, Rumaninan, Italian, Hungarian, Japanese, Croatian... etc... are "secret" languages or "cant". In fact it is likely that the root of Shelta is a pre Celtic Irish language.
Now, it has been my experience, both in the US and in Ireland, that Travellers when one is a friend to them, not a seek out the odd culture ethnic tourest or dectective, are very free to teach their language.
In the United States, I have found a highbred language which mixes Shelta with Romanichal (Scotish and English Romani language closely conected to the Romaness spoken by Vlax Roma) for example the word for dog Zhucle in Romaness is Yukle, as opposed to the Shelta word which is not related.
So, though I have great fondness for the Gemelches, I would disagree with that observation, which I find remarkable when everyone who has taken time to get to know Travellers adds some words of Shelta in their work... some secret.
All the best
Larry


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Sep 03 - 04:32 PM

My last post to the Uillean Pipe thread conatined a direct quote from Gmelch that it was a secret language in 1975. She spent 13 months living with travelers. Without further references from reliable sources, I consider the subject closed to my satisfaction


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?
From: InOBU
Date: 04 Sep 03 - 04:46 PM

I have spent from about 1977 to the present with Travellers here (the US) and in Ireland, above I give a logical arguement which you ignore and draw a conclution, not from a resoned arguement but from a sitation, quoting a non-Traveller. Well, that is your choice. I frankly think that it is an example of the prejudice with has haunted people racialized as "Gypsy" for hundreds of years. Sin e doigh
Larry


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Sep 03 - 08:44 PM

I hated, 60 years ago, to finish up some research and then find out I had to write it up and get it published.
My views changed when my research director pointed out: If you don't get it published so the rest of the world can see it and use it, then it's not going to go far, and why should the rest of the world care about you.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?
From: Sorcha
Date: 04 Sep 03 - 09:42 PM

Have a nice disccuion, Anon. Guest and Lorcan.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Sep 03 - 10:21 AM

I hope InOUB is too busy writing his book on Travelers to bother with us now. I don't a priori disbelieve what he says, but when it conflicts with what I have, and I can't check it in reliable sources, I can't accept it as solid fact.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?
From: Nerd
Date: 05 Sep 03 - 03:24 PM

The argument here, I think, is going in the wrong direction. Defining a language as a "secret language" is not judgmental, Lorcan, so I don't think it's an example of prejudice. I think we're proceeding from a fundamentally faulty idea of what a secret language actually is, because the questions of whether Shelta is literally a secret and whether it is a "secret language" are different questions. English-speaking Children use pig Latin, (at-whay id-day, i-ay, ay-say?) egg-language (weggat deggid eggi seggay?) , ubbie-dubbie (whubat dubit ubi subay?), etc., as "secret languages," but it is easy enough to learn them, and many children will teach you if you ask them. They are not languages that ARE secrets, but rather languages that are FOR secrets. (To clarify this, think of a secret language as a language for communicating secrets, not as a language that is itself a secret...)

Lorcan's example of the people in the shop is a good one. Those people presumably often speak those languages among themselves when no one else is present to be excluded. So while such a language can function as a secret language in some situations, it is not primarily a secret language. My grandparents used Yiddish as a secret language, to keep stuff from my parents. But this does not mean that Yiddish is primarily a secret language, because they also spoke it in other contexts.

Secret languages are languages (in fact, many are really not full languages at all but more like codes) that you learn so that you can keep secrets from other people in given situations. So the question is: do people normally speak Shelta, or do they speak it primarily when they wish to exclude an outsider? If it's commonly spoken, I think most linguists/folklorists would say it is a living language that can sometimes function as a secret language. If it is used primarily to exclude people not "in the know" then it is primarily a secret language. Again, this is not a question of judging the travellers, just a technical question about Shelta.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?
From: InOBU
Date: 06 Sep 03 - 12:50 PM

Good point Nerd:
As to the guest wondering where I was, well, having a life beyond the keyboard, I was playing an out of town gig, and I am back. As to publishing, I am often quoted in newstorries about Romani people, as I am one of the handful of Romani activists in the US attempting to get baseline rights for these people. The fact is, that the Gemelch's research is not "bad" as much as it is colored by it's times. There has been a huge amount of dicounting of "orientalism" about Romani people and Travellers as a people racialized as "Gypsy" due to the drift of Romani culture into a pre-existing nomadic and separate people... who spoke the root language of moderen Shelta.
As to Nerd's point, I have spent time at events which are exclusivly Traveller here, and although, unfortunatly the language is indanger of being lost in the younger generations, middle age and old Travellers speak the language amongst themselves, especially for emphasis while making a point. I hear such conversations at tables at which I am not sitting, and if someone is speaking in Cant at a table I am at, generally words I don't know are translated. We also have a lot of interchange compairing Romaness with Shelta, seeking the words that in their difference show that they are root words from the origional Irish language.
As to publishing... my degree is a Juris Doctorate, and as I have been working so much in the politics of Romani civil rights in applied anthropology, I have gone for a few interviews while deciding wiether or not to go back to school (a horrific idea for someone who wanted only to keep working at boat building and folk music...) to better serve the community as a PhD in Anthro. I acutually have parts of a thesis mapped out... but anyway, Guest, as Nerd and I both point out, it is not the methodology of the Gemelches that is the issue, it is the ASSUMPTION that a language is intended to be secret and what is provably NOT the case is that Shelta DEVELOPED to be a secret language any more than Natic is the secret language of New England Natives... just because you don't get it, does not mean it is a secret.
Oh well
Back to trying to get the hum out of my latest recordings...
Cheers
Larry


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?
From: GUEST,Paul
Date: 14 Sep 11 - 08:23 AM

Not that it discredits any points above (I agree with both Nerd and Larry), but Shelta isn't typically spoken among travellers anymore. My sister married into a traveller family and she was saying that its barely spoken with the exception of when you need to keep something secret. Shes picked up a few words of it for the sake of misdirecting police and what not.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Sep 11 - 08:34 AM

come to New York, where there are at least 40 some languages spoken and ALWAYS in a store when price is discussed folks behind the counter use their native tongue, this does not mean that Bangala, Cantonese, Gaelic, Russian, Ukrainian, Finnish, Norweegian, Vietnamese, Korean, Macidonian, Romaness, Rumaninan, Italian, Hungarian, Japanese, Croatian... etc... are "secret" languages or "cant"

What you often hear with minority languages is something different: the minority language isn't used for the actual transaction, but as a kind of assertion of identity. Something I've heard in shops in Turkish Kurdistan: the customer and shopkeeper exchange greetings and pleasantries in Kurdish, then switch to Turkish to do the purchase. I heard similar interactions using Maaori when I was in New Zealand.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?
From: Mysha
Date: 14 Sep 11 - 08:56 AM

Hi,

I know nothing of the subject, but the primary assumption is wrong:
"ALL people who speak a language not shared by others in a deel tend to use that language among themselves during a transaction, anyone who does not believe this - come to New York, where there are at least 40 some languages spoken and ALWAYS in a store when price is discussed folks behind the counter use their native tongue,".

I understand Danish, which in the Netherlands is a foreign tongue, and so do some other members of my family. I don't switch to Danish with them during a deal, even though it would likely not be understood by others.
On the other hand, it's common for people in Frisia to understand both Frisian and Dutch. Which of the two languages I pick depends on which is the familiar language between the other speaker and me.

So, though secrecy may be an effect, it need not be the reason for the language choice, and chosing a language for secrecy is certainly not universal.

Bye
                                                                Mysha


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?
From: open mike
Date: 14 Sep 11 - 11:48 AM

is deel different from deal?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Is Shelta a secret language?
From: Mysha
Date: 14 Sep 11 - 12:44 PM

Hi,

Well, a "deal" is an agreement to trade, while a "deel" is a kind of Asian tunic. But "others inside the same garment" would tend to be an empty set, making the description rather pointless. So, I expect the reading should be "deal", here, regardless of spelling.

Bye,
                                                                  Mysha


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