1:20pm Monday 9th September 2013
By Gema Bate
THE lost dialect of the Vale was rediscovered when a student undertook a study to get into her chosen university.
‘Asum’ grammar arose from slurred Elizabethan and was spoken by land workers in Ella Heeks’ greatgrandparents’ generation.
Miss Heeks, from Tewkesbury, became interested in the dialect when her father died last year.
“Both my grandfather and father used to speak a few words of the dialect – such as ‘yuttin’ for eating, ‘yud’ for head and many local place names with ‘Asum’ equivalents like ‘Broddy’ for Broadway,”
“It was particularly meaningful for me to look into that side of my past after my father became ill.”
The 18-year-old was then put in contact with ‘the Evesham poet’ Mike Edwards, who created poetry in ‘Asum’ grammar, and made both video and audio of himself for her project.
“I think Mr Edwards was a bit puzzled by my interest when I first began speaking to him about it and he treated, with some amusement, any ‘academic’ analysis of ‘Asum’. The sort of thing he would say when I was interviewing him was: “No wallyin byun homm wi’ a shuppick for thee then,”
meaning “no raking up the bean haul with a pitchfork for you then,” because I was hoping to go to university.
“It really brought home the powerful emotional link between language and identity when I was lucky enough to find and interview Mike Edwards, who remembers ‘Asum’ from a market gardening childhood. Mike generously and entertainingly shared his understanding of the structures and vocabulary of this local language through witty anecdotes and readings of poems.”
When Miss Heeks visited Lancaster University, she asked for advice on how to conduct her project as her predicted A-level grades looked to be disappointing after a difficult year of family illness and bereavement.
“With my result being so at risk I was over the moon when Lancaster made me an offer then accepted me. I think they were impressed by the fact that I had had the initiative to do a project on my local dialect which Professor Diane Potts called an ‘exquisite study’,” Miss Heeks added. She got an A, two Bs and a C in art, music, Italian and Spanish and also studied Latin at GCSE level.
Miss Heeks starts university this month and will study linguistics focusing on dialect.
And she will revisit ‘Asum’ grammar for her dissertation.
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