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In most words with a long U that doesn't start a syllable, it is pronounced /uː/. Examples: student, reduce, introduce. However, in some words (such as music, mule, human) it is pronounced /juː/. I've heard that in other countries, even the first examples are pronounced like the second (/ˈstjuːd(ə)nt/, /ɹɪˈdjuːs/, /ɪntrəˈdjuːs/).

What's with the discrepancies in the American pronunciation?

  • One classic split involves the word coupon, which some speakers pronounce "coo-pon" and others "Q-pon." – Sven Yargs Sep 3 '14 at 18:46
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    See yod-dropping for your perusal. There’s a lot of data and conditioning going on here—it’s quite complex and not at all easy to tabulate or follow which dialects drop which yods. There are even a few dialects here and there that do drop the yods in music and mule (and even use, so that it rhymes with ooze!). Never heard of any dialects that drop the one in you, making it rhyme with ooh, though. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 3 '14 at 19:05
  • I know you've tagged it as american-english but all those words would be pronounced with you in almost every British accent (with the possible exclusion of a heavy Belfast accent who still wouldn't use 'oo'). Australian's would pronounce it as you, slightly extended and South African (English) would be you but clipped a bit. Is it possible that those areas where it is pronounced you are heavily influenced by British accents? Do you know where that pronunciation is common (in the US)? – Frank Sep 3 '14 at 19:11
  • @Frank most places afaik. – Scimonster Sep 3 '14 at 19:39
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    Ah - I understood it as 'regions inside the US'. youtube is a good example : US Pronunciation is generally 'you-toob', UK is generally either 'you-tyoub' or 'you-chube'. See JBJs yod-dropping link above. – Frank Sep 4 '14 at 6:57
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According to the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, u: (or "oo") is predominantly used in American English, whereas ju: (yoo) is preferred in British English. However, variations exist, and for the case of student, their data shows that around 90% of American English speakers say u:. (Edited)

On page 850, you can find the following "rules":

In the case of expected ju:, juə, ju, the j drops out as follows:

  • after the consonant sounds , , ʃ, r, j as in jury, rude

  • sometimes in BrE, and always in AmE, after l, θ, s, z as in assume

  • usually in AmE, but not in BrE, after t, d, n as in tune

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    That can't be right. I know of no British accent that would pronounce student as 'stood-ent' and I've not yet met an American who says 'styou-dent'. All the words the question author has listed are pronounced with you in most British accents. – Frank Sep 3 '14 at 20:04
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    The Longman Dictionary is one of the most reliable resources. The non-standard pronunciations are not very common, but according to research they do exist. – painfulenglish Sep 3 '14 at 20:19
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    Nope, sorry to disagree with Longman but current US pronunciation is overwhelmingly "stoodent". "Styudent" sounds like a dialect of times gone by, like in the movies from the 1940's maybe. – Kristina Lopez Sep 3 '14 at 21:23
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    If this is indeed how they write it, they are flat-out contradicting themselves. The last point in the list is correct: after dentals, the yod is usually dropped in AmE (stoodent, toon), and usually retained in BrE (styudent, tyune). Either Longman somehow switched BrE and AmE in the bit you quote in the first paragraph, or you did when quoting it—at any rate, it's exactly backwards. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 4 '14 at 9:52
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    It still seems very odd that they claim that [u:] is predominantly British and [ju:] predominantly American (as the first sentence still says)—quite contrary to actual practice. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 4 '14 at 10:07

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