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24 September 2014

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Oral history grant keeps Forest dialect alive
Hodboy sculpture in the Forest of Dean
Many Forest expressions developed in the mines

The Dean Heritage Centre has scooped an £89,000 award from the National Lottery for a Community Archiving and Oral History project which aims to preserve Forest dialects.

audio A Forest Speaker
audio Anna King interviews co-ordinator of the Oral Histories Project
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Internet Links
Dean Heritage Museum
Forest of Dean website
Millennium Memory Bank
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Fact file
+ From the early 1950's the Survey of English Dialects based in the Institute of Dialect and Folk-Life Studies in the School of English at the University of Leeds began to make audio recordings for all its research work.

+ Roughly 3,000 of the world's 6,000 distinct languages are seriously endangered, according to a recent report by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
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Foresters have baffled outsiders for years with their peculiar dialect. But now young people are growing up with MTV and soap operas and the distinctive Forest way of speaking is dying out.

Audio files
audio Anna King speaks to Kate Baugh about the Oral Histories Project
audio Listen to a Forest speaker talking in dialect

Even though some people in the Forest continue to use the dialect many of them are choosing not to pass their knowledge onto their children.

But now the National Lottery has awarded the Dean Heritage Museum £89,000 to support volunteers in compiling oral histories of older Forest residents.

Ruins in the Forest
The Forest of Dean remained isolated during the industrial revolution

Many of the words and expressions developed when the forest was a focus for iron and coal mining and despite London being just 120 miles away The Forest of Dean remained isolated.

Researchers and volunteers realise that the project is not going to encourage new speakers of the dialect but the goal is to preserve the unique way of speaking on tape. This means there will at least be a permanent record.

The Centre is using special archiving software to compile the oral histories. This will help to preserve the hundreds of unique expressions and eventually the whole archive will be available online.

Ow bist old butt?
Roughly translated means: "How are you my old pal?"

The hope is that it will provide a valuable resource for researchers and historians and preserve the dialect for posterity.

See our Interactive Map for more information about the Forest of Dean.



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