Thanks to all who participated in the survey on pronunciation of the “-man” suffix in such words as “policeman” and “gunman.” I reported on the results yesterday on the Lingua Franca blog.
One finding I didn’t report was the difference between U.K. and U.S. respondents. For certain words it was rather dramatic.
Here is a graph showing respondents from the U.S.:
Generally speaking, U.K. respondents use the schwa more often than do American ones. Here are the three words with the biggest difference:
My hypotheses for this relates to the general idea expressed in The Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, that reduced-stress schwa-vowel “-man” tends to occur in “well-established formations.” The three words in the chart above are nothing if not well-established–and were established in the British Isles long before there even was a United States.
Also supporting the hypothesis is results on “lineman,” which I threw into the survey without thinking about the fact that it’s a mainly American term, either as a football position or the job memorialized in Glen Campbell’s song “Wichita Lineman.” (Google Ngram Viewer shows much greater use in the U.S.) Sure enough, U.K. respondents–to whom it’s unfamiliar–significantly outnumber Americans in reporting an equal-stress /æ/ vowel in “lineman.”