3 2 20-28 2017

Working-Class Heroes: Intraspeaker Variation in General Secretary Len McCluskey

Aïsha Daw, Xueyan Zhou


We examine “Liverpool lenition” in the speech of Len McCluskey, a speaker of “Scouse”. Scouse is a variety of Liverpool English associated with the working-class persona of the “Liverpudlian”. We hypothesised that McCluskey, General Secretary of the trade union Unite, would use Scouse relatively more often when speaking to an audience sympathetic to the Labour Party than to an audience that is not. We analysed his rate of lenition in two social settings: speeches to a Labour-sympathetic audience and interviews with a non-Laboursympathetic audience. We find that McCluskey’s spiranisation is more frequent in the speeches than in the interviews. We argue that lenition is a resource for the construction of a working-class persona that may be beneficial for political purposes.


style shifting; intraspeaker variation; sociophonetics; indexicality; UK English

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.2218/ls.v3i2.2017.1864


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