Dr Joe Spencer-Bennett

Dr Joe Spencer-Bennett

Department of English Language and Linguistics
Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics

Contact details

Frankland Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I teach on a number of the department’s programmes. I research relations between language, communication and politics, using approaches from discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, and archival research. My current research looks at issues to do with the simplicity, informality and clarity of political language, in Britain especially.


  • 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 have taught on a number of modules, including Theories of Language, Discourse & Society, and Language & Politics. I also convene Language Dissertations and Investigations on the department’s BA programmes

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 have acted as external examiner at Manchester, Oxford Brookes and Chester. I am a member of the British Association for Applied Linguistics and the Network for Oratory and Politics.


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>


Spencer-Bennett, J 2021, 'The people’s critical linguistics: using archival data to investigate responses to linguistic informalisation ', Language in Society, vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 283-304. 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