This article integrates aspects of synchronic and diachronic phonological theory with points relevant to the study of a nonreference accent in order to investigate the patterns of consonantal lenition found in the variety of English spoken in Liverpool, England. Points of contact with variationist approaches are addressed, partly because the lenitions are variable processes. An implicational understanding of lenition is developed, thanks to which it is possible to describe the prosodic and melodic environments which inhibit the lenitions. New data from a small corpus investigation into Liverpool English are presented and a theoretical and practical methodology is proposed, which enables the data to be investigated. The descriptive focus is on the segments /t/ and /k/, which are typically realized as affricates or fricatives unless the lenition is inhibited. A notion of ‘melodic lenition inhibition’ is developed to account for some of the inhibitory patterns, whereby the sharing of autosegmental phonological elements gives a segment ‘strength’ in certain environments.
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