My friends in Kaohsiung just taught me the word for "taro" 芋頭.

I looked it up and found yu4 tou5 but my friends here insist it's yu4 tou2.

Is this a pronunciation difference between Taiwan vs the mainland?

  • 2
    examples of nouns with suffix 头 tóu or tou (cf. ISBN 0-415-15174-0) tou : 锄头、木头、芋头 、舌头、骨头、榔头、砖头、馒头、指头、浪头、念头、想头(colloq)、看头(colloq),甜头、奔头儿, tóu :年头、苦头、噱头(dial)、钟头
    – user6065
    Sep 8, 2016 at 18:19
  • My popup dictionary (Perapera), which usually does show multiple pronunciations, only shows one for each of these. It shows only tone 5 for all of them except 年头, 噱头, and 钟头, for which it shows only tone 2. I haven't checked any other dictionaries yet. Thanks! Sep 9, 2016 at 4:16
  • 2
    kinezika.info/pdf/ModernMandarinChineseGrammar_Textbook.pdf:"In Beijing and northern China, certain syllables lose their original tone and are pronounced as neutral tone. This tone change does not occur in Taiwan, where all syllables retain their original tones。"
    – user6065
    Sep 20, 2016 at 14:34

4 Answers 4


This is actually one example of a more general phenomenon. Mandarin, as spoken in Taiwan, uses weak stress (the neutral tone) much less often than Mandarin as spoken in northern areas. This is true not only of Taiwan speakers, but of other areas as well. According to Jerry Norman's 1988 book, Chinese (p. 149):

Weak stress (neutral tone) is an essential feature of the standard language, and of most northern dialects, but because its occurrence is lexically determined it is difficult for non-Peking speakers to master. Speakers of putonghua from many regions in South China, however, employ only a very small number of weakly stressed syllables, and these are chiefly limited to grammatical suffixes and particles.

  • Great stuff. I had actually known about this a couple of years ago but forgot about it while I wasn't exposed to Chinese, or at least to Taiwan. Sep 11, 2016 at 5:35

I dont know about taiwan, but both ways of pronunciation( tone, specifically) are natural in mainland China. And tou5 does sound native to people in many parts of China, but I myself barely notice.

Dictionaries can't tell you stuff like this.

  • 2
    Well dictionaries can tell stuff like this if they are well made. But not all dictionaries actually do. Sep 14, 2016 at 9:25

In my opinion, it is a regional pronunciation difference. I've checked the educational bureau dictionary of Taiwan, it is yùtou5.

However, it is often pronounced as yùtóu. And personally, I said this a lot too.


  1. head ex.人頭
  2. leader
  3. top or end ex. 山頭
  4. beginning of an event ex.從頭開始
  5. measurement ex.一頭牛
  6. using as adjective, beginning of, in the front ex.頭幾排
  7. those just some common usages... and more you can check the dictionary (the dictionary which I used is called 萌典, a Taiwanese Mandarin dictionary)


suffix ex.舌頭、上頭

And most of the people just pronounce all as tóu here in Taiwan.



There'are two different pinyin of 頭 in Mandarin: |tou2| tou5|

[1] [n] head; hair; hairstyle
[2] [adj] first; top; start; end
[3] [n] chief; leader; boss
[4] [n] side; party; aspect
[5] classifier for certain domestic animals

suffix for certain objects, location words, and adjectives (to form a noun)|

彩頭 cai3 tou2
頭髮 tou2 fa3  
風頭 feng1 tou2
鐘頭  zhong1 tou2 

All the example words contained 頭 has tone 2 reading. (I am wondering why they didn't include a tone 5 reading example.) It shows |tou2| is the primary pinyin of 頭

  • I've only checked Wiktionary and Perapera so far. I'm sure Perapera gets its data from CEDICT. Of course both Wiktionary and CEDICT are community-edited projects. So they will contain errors and omissions but those can also be fixed by their communities. Sep 9, 2016 at 6:56

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