Dr Joe Spencer-Bennett

Department of English Language and Linguistics
Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics
Head of English Language and Linguistics

Contact details

Frankland Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I teach on a number of courses in the School of English, Drama and American and Canadian Studies, and I research relations between language, communication and society. My current focus is the moral and ethical life of language.


  • BA (Hons) Linguistics, Edinburgh
  • MA Critical Discourse, Culture and Communication, Birmingham
  • PhD English, Birmingham
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice, Birmingham


I have worked as a lecturer at the University of Birmingham since 2011. Before that I taught part-time at the university, and at York, Aston and Wolverhampton.


I teach and convene a number of modules in the School of English, Drama, American and Canadian Studies. In 2015-16, these modules are:

  • Theories of Language (1st year)
  • Creative Practice: Language (1st year)
  • Discourse & Society (3rd year)
  • Social and Multimodal Aspects of Communication (MA)
  • Multimodal Communication (Distance Learning MA)

Postgraduate supervision

I am keen to supervise postgraduate research on relations between language, politics and society, especially (but not exclusively) in recent British history.

Find out more - our PhD English Language and Applied Linguistics  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My research focuses on relations between language and politics. I am especially interested in the ways in which particular ways of using language have been conceived as rhetorical resources for political communicators.

My current research investigates attempts by British political communicators since WWII to informalise or vernacularise their language. I ask why it is that speaking like 'the man or woman on the street' has held such an appeal for so many. To address this question, and in my research more generally, I draw on frameworks from discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, and I engage with the work of political scientists and historians. 

Other activities

I am an external examiner for undergraduate programmes in English Language at the University of Manchester and at Oxford Brookes. 


Recent publications


Bennett, J 2018, Moral Talk: Stance and evaluation in political discourse. Politics of Language, Routledge. <https://www.routledge.com/Moral-Talk-Stance-and-Evaluation-in-Political-Discourse/Spencer-Bennett/p/book/9781138298156>


Bennett, J 2020, 'The people’s critical linguistics: using archival data to investigate responses to linguistic informalisation ', Language in Society. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047404520000305

Bennett, J 2019, 'The Ministry of Information and the linguistic design of Britain's World War II propaganda: what archival documents can tell us about political discourse ', Discourse and Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926519889125

Bennett, J 2016, 'The critical problem of cynical irony: Meaning what you say and ideologies of class and gender', Social Semiotics, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 250-264. https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2015.1134819

Bennett, J 2014, 'Avoiding emotivism: a sociolinguistic approach to moral talk', Language & Communication, vol. 39, pp. 73-82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langcom.2014.07.001

Bennett, J 2013, 'Moralising class: A discursive analysis of the mainstream political response to Occupy and the August 2011 British Riots', Discourse and Society, vol. 13, no. 1.

Bennett, J 2012, ''And what comes out may be a kind of screeching': The stylisation of chavspeak in contemporary Britain', Journal of Sociolinguistics, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 5-27. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9841.2011.00521.x

Bennett, J 2012, 'Chav-spotting in Britain: the representation of social class as private choice', Social Semiotics. https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2012.708158


Bennett, J 2020, Inequality and 'the language of leadership' in World War II. in The Discursive Construction of Economic Inequality. Bloomsbury.

Bennett, J 2018, The politics of English. in The Routledge Handbook of English Language Studies. Routledge, pp. 240-251.

View all publications in research portal