Pronunciation of “-man”

This is (probably) off-topic, but I’d appreciate your help in something I’m looking into for another blog, Lingua Franca. I’m investigating how people pronounce the suffix “man” in such words as policeman, mailman, gunman, etc. (understanding, of course, that they are sexist and on the way out). The issue is whether the syllable is pronounced with a reduced stress and a “schwa” vowel, as in “woman,” or with equal stress, rhyming with “can” or “fan.”

Please take the survey at the link below, and do your part in helping the advancement of (pseudo-)science.

7 thoughts on “Pronunciation of “-man”

  1. Took the survey. . . feel that “region” is too limiting for someone my age — though I’m “in” the Middle Atlantic region, my dialect is a mixture of Middle Western and New England.

  2. Did you know that the word “madman” (it’s on your list) is sometimes used to refer to the recreational drug ecstasy as word contains MDMA (“MaDMAn”)?

    cf. The Madman’s Return CD by Snap!

  3. Might be worth modifying the survey to include the option of both/interchangeable/depends on position in sentence etc. I definitely pronounce milkman and postman and some of the others in both of those ways depending on emphasis, while others I consistently pronounce one way or the other.

  4. Interesting. The three words I pronounce as the ‘man’ in ‘woman’ are the three words I use most regularly: policeman, postman and milkman. The others I rarely, if ever, say, but when I read them, think I’d pronounce them the other way. I’m from the UK.

  5. Like a lot of Americans, I have a lot of immigrant influence so I think I’d probably add something about personal background, as well as narrowing the regions.
    Instead of adding a third check box my suggestion would be to provide context: how would you pronounce the word in this sentence?

  6. I’m originally from the UK, but have lived in New England for 40 years so I find I pronounce words from my youth one way, e.g postman (like woman) but US words like mailman (like can) differently. Hope I didn’t skew your data!

    1. I found my answers ran a similar to this too, and I’m English but have only been in the States for 4 years. I think it makes sense that you would pick up the pronunciation of the place where you first hear the word said in any volume, rather than translate it back to you home-lingo. I have a friend back in the UK who is a linguist and upon us getting together about a year after I’d lived in the States the one word he picked up of mine as having an American pronunciation was Thanksgiving – something I would have barely ever said before coming to the States.

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