I keep hearing such things as ...
mandatory pronounced mandatory
formidable pronounced formidable.
pastoral pronounced pastoral.
adversary pronounced adversary.
integral pronounced integral.
efficacy pronounced efficacy ... this last example recently afforded some comedy. There is an 'Andrew Marr' who does an interview programme on the Beeb (he has never been exactly the sparkiest match in the box, despite an expensive private education in Scotland and a first at Cambridge in English) and who pronounced it thus; and admitted that ... he had never met the word before!! The Imperial don he was interviewing (about Covid vaccines) pronounced it correctly; so did the First Minister of Scotland ... but Marr stuck, poor fellow, to his guns.
Is there a widespread unease with regard to words in which the stress seems "too far back" for the oral comfort of many otherwise apparently healthy and even admirable folk?
If the dear ancient county of Westmorland still existed, I bet they'd be pronouncing it Westmorland, as I believe people do in some American place of the same name. So could the phenomenon which puzzles me be an Americanism?
I remember being puzzled some years ago when I was dealing with an early sixteenth century will. The property concerned was called Westmanton. But the scribed copy of Dame Thomasina Percival's will read it as Westpinton.
-man- and -pin- are, on the face of things, really rather different-sounding syllables. But the penny then dropped in my mind. The placename must have been pronounced Westmanton, Westm'nt'n, which left the London scribe uncertain how to spell the unstressed middle syllable.
So what is the modern problem about English polysyllabic words with an early stress? Is there a parallel mutation in any other modern languages? Is it really that, for some reason, early stress has come to feel awkward to mis-shapen modern mouths?
I don't think so.
On my theory, it is the result, in a semi-educated society, of an over-mastering fetich for orthography. This is what leads the fluvial peasantry North of Oxford to think that the river Cherwell (first syllable correctly rhyming with car, as in Berkshire), should be pronounced so that the first syllable rhymes with fur. Similarly, I suggest, individuals who have been more accustomed to meeting 'formidable' and 'mandatory' in print than they have been to hearing them in spoken discourse, feel a compulsion to 'regularise' the middle vowel. They have heard the words so rarely that, when they do need to use them, they don't know how most people in the past (which, of course, is what the dictionaries are recording) have pronounced them.
Should I call this 'schwaphobia'? Or, as one learned reader informs me, "Spelling Pronunciation"?
Or is it something else I haven't thought of?
PS: A Latin word which has suffered the same ruthless treatment on fallible modern tongues: musicians seem invariably to mispronounce Carmina (as in Carmina Burana) as cameeena.