I had a debate with a non-native speaker who pronounced
infer as /ɪnˈfɪə/; rhymes with career
inference as /ɪnˈfirəns/; rhymes with clearance; stress on the second syllable
and claimed that this pronunciation was common (in particular in American English), though they admitted that it’s not the only possible option.
However, all sources I consulted listed:
On the other hand, I see no way how the first pair of pronunciation should emerge from a mistake: All orthographically similar words I can think of (refer(ence), defer(ence), prefer(ence), confer(ence), circumference) are pronounced in a consistently different manner and I can’t even think of any word that could be used as a blueprint for this pronunciation. This is a hint (but nothing more) that these pronunciations may be real.
Therefore I am asking: Did I miss something and do any native speakers actually use the first pair of pronunciations?