Language Socialisation in the Face of Changing Social Networks: The Case of the Irish Traveller Cant

Language Socialisation in the Face of Changing Social Networks: The Case of the Irish Traveller Cant

School of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics Research Seminar

Language Socialisation in the Face of Changing Social Networks: The Case of the Irish Traveller Cant

Maria Rieder (German, MLAL)

Wednesday 30 September, 5.15pm, Venue: LCO017

The Irish Traveller community has had to go through substantial cultural, economic and social changes in the course of the last century. These changes have naturally had an impact on language use: Their heritage language Cant, a combination of the Travellers’ own lexical items and English morphosyntax, has traditionally fulfilled clear functional purposes. In the course of the last century, a slow change and decrease in functions and use could be observed. This paper illuminates the impact that this development and changing perceptions of the code has on the Traveller children’s knowledge and use of Cant.

The data supporting this paper stems from a two-year ethnographic project among the Traveller community and consists of ethnographic field-notes and focus group interviews conducted with a group of Travellers of mixed gender, age and social background. 

The paper will illuminate the process of change that Cant finds itself in at the moment and that directly impacts on the children’s bilingualism and their views of Cant. The degree of involvement in Traveller social networks and folk-perceptions of their own cultural and social identity are found to be parallel to the amount of use and the importance that Travellers of different generations ascribe to Cant. The widening of social network types has consequences in terms of transmission of cultural goods, among them the code Cant, and this directly affects the shape of Cant in each generation. 

ALL WELCOME