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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.

  • 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
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    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
  • I've only heard the pronunciation /ˈflɒrɪdə/ from people from New York. The rest of the U.S. says /ˈflɔrɪdə/, which is (marginally) closer to the Spanish. – Peter Shor Dec 16 '15 at 15:30
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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
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    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
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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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Because "paraguay" is an indigenous name it is pronounced with the dropped "g" as "pAra we". The spelling of "Paraguay" is Spanish but the name itself is "para'we".

  • Where is it pronounced like this? I can find pronunciations in Spanish both with and without the /g/, but I can't tell whether that's just because some dialects of Spanish drop /g/s. – Peter Shor Apr 20 at 16:41
  • @PeterShor I travelled through Paraguay and I can attest that the /g/ is barely pronounced by locals, it's somewhere between a slight aspiration and the mildest of glottal stops. This is common throughout the Andean countries where I lived for nearly a year; agua (water) is pronounced the same way, more like a'wa. – Chappo Says Reinstate Monica Apr 20 at 16:52
  • @Garry, I'm not sure how you pronounce "pAra we" but the Paraguayan pronunciation roughly rhymes with the English word eye and a typical English pronunciation would be more like para+gw+eye. – Chappo Says Reinstate Monica Apr 20 at 17:05
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I invariably pronounce it /paɾaˈgwai/. 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
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    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
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    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
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    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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    Well sorry, but I'm no linguist like you, so I have no idea what that means. Evidently whatever source I got that from was incorrect (since I remember listening to the associated audio). Feel free to correct it though. – Noldorin Apr 10 '12 at 3:55

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