Why would you replace the <e> in argue before affixing <-ment>?

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    It is fairly normal to drop the silent "e" when adding a suffix to such a word (though I can't offhand think of other examples). As to "Why?" the answer is "Because this is English". – Hot Licks Mar 12 '18 at 22:42
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    @HotLicks - what about “amazement” and the silent “e”? – user067531 Mar 12 '18 at 22:48
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    @user5768790 In that case it would change the sound of that second a, since there's a consonant between it and the e. – spoko Mar 12 '18 at 22:56
  • @user5768790 "Amazement" would create CC run with the /e/ dropped. Argument doesn't. – jimm101 Mar 12 '18 at 22:57
  • What I find more strange is the dropping of the e from dge when adding -ment, in words like judgment or abridgment. To me, dge sounds like a j, but dg seems like it should sound the way it's spelled. – spoko Mar 12 '18 at 23:05

It wasn't formed within English at all. According to the OED, this is the etymology of the word:

French argument (13th cent.), < Latin argūmentum , < arguĕre (or refashioning, after this, of Old French arguement , < arguer )

I don't know Latin, but I think I found a pattern:

  • indument (obsolete) from "Latin indumentum garment, clothing, < induĕre"
  • integument from "Latin integumentum covering, < integĕre to cover"
  • involument (obsolete) from "late Latin involūmentum (Vulgate), wrapper, < involvĕre to involve"

I think Latin just drops the ending -ere from its verbs when adding -mentum.

  • It's a loan word. Wow. Thank you so much for your research!! – Murdie Mar 13 '18 at 4:42

As Laurel’s answer suggests, “dropping” the e comes from Latin, rather than English.

To give a little Latin background, arguere (“to enlighten,” “to plea,” “to make a case”) is the infinitive form of arguo (“I [do those things]”). The principle parts of a Latin verb are usually given as

  • the 1st-person–present–indicative–active (arguo, “I make a case”),

  • the infinitive (arguere, “to make a case”),

  • the 1st-person–perfect–indicative–active (argui, “I made a case”), and

  • the supine (argutum, also “to make a case,” but this time as a noun phrase1).

So here you can see that -ere is the suffix used to form the infinitive form of the verb, which is perhaps the most “neutral” form it has (not being attached to any particular actor or tense). Notably, the imperative form of the verb takes the infinitive and drops the -re, so ordering someone to make a case would literally be argue (pronounced differently, though, since the e would not be silent and there would be no y sound, so closer to ar-goo-eh though that makes the e sound seem too strong).

Meanwhile, argumentum is also a Latin word, formed as arguo + mentum (“a tool or aid”), in short, a tool or aid for making your case. Argumentum doesn’t “drop” an e, it simply never had one. It instead drops o, as that is the 1st-person–present–indicative–active suffix and not really relevant to the noun that was made from it.

  1. For the curious, the difference between the infinitive and supine—which actually do exist in English as concepts, even though they use the same words—is roughly this: “I go to make a case,” is the infinitive, i.e. Arguere eo. “To make a case is the best choice,” is the supine, i.e. Argutum est optio optima.

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