For the word terrible, there are two different ways to pronounce it on Merriam-Webster online dictionary as showed in the picture above. And this question has been confusing me for a very long time. When the R-controlled vowel followed by a vowel in a word, should we pronounce the R-controlled vowel as in the same syllable or the r sound should be pronounced with the vowel after it?
Fortunately, Merriam-Webster provides a "Guide to Pronunciation" in PDF form (https://assets2.merriam-webster.com/mw/static/pdf/help/guide-to-pronunciation.pdf, linked from https://www.merriam-webster.com/help), which explains all of its notations with additional information. Salient points from that guide:
- Not all dialects allow \e-r\; speakers of some dialects have \er\ even in words where Merriam-Webster gives \e-r\. This means that in some dialects, the two listed pronunciations are actually the same.
- \e-r\ denotes the vowel \e\ (as in bet) plus the consonant \r\ (as in red).
- \er\ denotes a diphthong where the first part can be anywhere from \e\ (as in bet) to \ā\ (as in day) and the second part is \ər\ (as in singer).
Neither listed pronunciation is the one that fixer1234 and Andrew mention, where the terr- is pronounced as in terrific or terrarium. Maybe Merriam-Webster needs to add that one!