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I know that the proper pronunciation of 'arguable' is /ɑr gju ə bəl/. I do not doubt.

But it often bothers me when reading this word, that it somehow sounds like 'argu r able'.

While not sure, I think I have heard people pronouncing this word that way.

Is this also an accepted alternative pronunciation of this word? I'm asking this question as a non-native English speaker.

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    I've never heard it pronounced that way. – Blessed Geek Oct 9 '14 at 6:09
  • Perhaps your mind is trying to over apply an intrusive r, or, alternatively someone you know has the somewhat common (for kids, anyways) R-W speech impediment. I think most people probably have an ever-so-slight W on the syllable with the unstressed a. – user0721090601 Nov 8 '14 at 16:05
  • I've always pronounced it roughly "arg-ya-uh-bull". (Though "ya" isn't quite right -- somewhere between "you" and "ya". And, of course, it's all run together fairly tightly -- there's just a barely detectable transition between the "a" and the "u".) – Hot Licks Mar 8 '15 at 13:16
  • I would not be surprised to hear it with the injected "R" sound, from someone from the northeast US, or rural mideast US. – Hot Licks Mar 8 '15 at 13:20
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    On a related, though reversed, note, I have spent most of tonight watching semi-bad crime shows on TV, and I have heard twice in one night the word barbiturate pronounced without the second /r/, as ‘barbituate’. Perhaps there's some emerging change of the sequence /u(r)ə/ going on… – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 12 '15 at 2:57
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I think I've heard that. Maybe it's the intrusive r that turns up after schwa and before a vowel in the eastern US dialect that John Kennedy spoke. If the vowels of the second and third syllables are both reduced, you get [ɑɹgjəəbl] with two schwas next to each other, and that is a favorable place for a glide to be inserted. A similar word is "arduous" which could get to [ɑɹdjəəs] -- I wonder if you ever get an r there, too.

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I've never heard "argu r able", and I would not describe it as an "accepted alternative pronunciation".

It seems fairly plausible to me that some people might use this pronunciation, because there is an /r/, or an R-colored vowel, earlier in the word. Words with multiple R sounds are somewhat prone to losing one (via "dissimilation"), and somewhat less commonly, words with a single R sound may have variant pronunciations with more than one due to "assimilation" (as with sherbet, which has a variant pronunciation "sherbert"). See my answer to 'Forward' pronounced more often as 'foward'? for some more information about this phenomenon.

Variation between /ju/ and /jər/ before a vowel is known to occur in at least one other word, barbiturate (which has the stigmatized variant barbituate, as mentioned in a comment by Janus Bahs Jacquet).

  • Wouldn’t it be more likely to be variation between /ju/ and /jʊr/? Probably /ʊ/ and /ə/ are merged between /j/ and /r/ for most people, but where they are kept separate, I would imagine the variation here would favour /ʊ/. At least that’s I have /-ˡbɪtʃʊrət/ in words like barbiturate, forming an almost minimal pair with a bitcher had… with /-ˡbɪtʃərəd/. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 17 '18 at 16:36

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