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The English article for Paraguay in Wikipedia mentions that Paraguay is pronounced as /ˈpɛərəɡweɪ/, which matches the pronunciation recommended by Merriam-Webster. However, inogolo recommends /paɾaˈɣwai/ which is similar to the Spanish and Guarani pronunciations. I have heard both pronunciations in the U.S. but I could not find the preferred pronunciation in other places.

Although I am a native Spanish speaker, I prefer /ˈpɛərəɡweɪ/ since it seems more natural in U.S. English. This is analogous to pronouncing Florida as /ˈflɒrɪdə/ instead of the Spanish-based /flo.ˈri.da/.

Does one region prefer one pronunciation over the other? Is there a pronunciation that is preferred overall?

This question also applies to the pronunciation of Uruguay.

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Wiktionary shows that Paraguay is pronounced as /ˈpæɹ.ə.ɡwaɪ/ and /ˈpæɹ.ə.ɡweɪ/ in the UK and /ˈpɛɹ.ə.ɡweɪ/, /ˈpæɹ.ə.ɡweɪ/, and /ˈpɛɹ.ə.ɡwaɪ/ in the US. I still want to know if there is a preferred pronunciation per region. – Jaime Soto Nov 12 '10 at 21:03
I pronounce it as the former, /ˈpɛərəɡweɪ/, with Urugway "You - rue - gway" (you the word, rue the word, and gway rhyming). – Claudiu Nov 12 '10 at 21:05

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It's to do with American English spelling and pronunciation conventions getting mixed up with foreign words and their different conventions. The standard spelling and pronunciation of vowels in American English conflicts with Spanish spelling and pronunciation. The a's in "paragraph" look like the ones in Paraguay, similar spelling means similar pronunciation, unless you have taken Spanish or are exposed to it.

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similar spelling means similar pronunciation ? everywhere but in english – Petruza Feb 5 '11 at 3:48
Maybe there are more exceptions than actual rules, but it's still a good guide when pronouncing a word you've never heard! – Juan Mendes Feb 18 '11 at 18:03

I don't know if it answers your question, but there is a good page where people upload the pronunciation of words in their respective languages. You can try it. Maybe you'll find something useful.

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I invariably pronounce it /paɾaˈɣwai/. It is indeed much closer to the actual Spanish pronunciation. This seems to be the standard pronunciation in Britain English in general, from my experience.

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I have serious doubts that pronouncing [ɣ] is standard in any British English word. – Kosmonaut Nov 12 '10 at 23:20
@Kosmonaut: Well it is standard (though not ubiquitous) - I'm telling you! As a Brit, I'm pretty well qualified to say so. Note that it may not be a common pronunciation for the gu sequence, but this is an exception since the word is Spanish in origin. – Noldorin Nov 12 '10 at 23:24
If it is standard to pronounce Paraguay or Uruguay with [ɣ], I wonder why it is not listed as a UK or US variant in any dictionary. – Kosmonaut Nov 12 '10 at 23:40
I am British and would not pronounce any English words with [ɣ], Spanish origin notwithstanding - it gets naturalised to [ɡ], including in Paraguay and Uruguay. – psmears Feb 5 '11 at 8:16
No, you didn't indicate "gw", you indicated the voiced velar fricative, a sound which doesn't exist in modern English and which is rather nasty to try and pronounce. :-) – Jez Apr 9 '12 at 7:22

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