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白头偕老 is a set expression in Mandarin, meaning to get old together, in a loose translation. I found it in a Hokkien song called 牵阮的手 (Mandarin 牵我的手, English While you hold my hand). In the linked video, it is pronounced in a way that sounds like pe̍h-thiô-kai-nóo making it rhyme with the rest of the lyrics. In a CD I have, though, I hear it pronounced something like pe̍h-thâu-kai-láu, losing the rhyme. In both cases, the accurate sounds and the tones are reconstructed from the 台湾闽南语常用词辞典. In fact, in the second one, I am not sure whether to put láu or lāu. I chose the former since it is indicated as (literary), whereas the former is indicated as (vernacular), and this looks like a set phrase possibly stemming from Classical CHinese, which makes a literary reading seem more appropriate. Anyway my question is: is either of these right? Or is none of these right? And if so, which is the right one?

  • The literary pronunciation of 老 could be nóo, as indicated by the 台湾闽南语常用词辞典. – user58955 Sep 15 '14 at 23:01
  • Yes I saw that. The point in the vernacular vs. literary distinction was to justify the choice of láu over lāu, which of course cannot be distinguished by hearing the song sung. What I actually heard in the CD was like pethaukailau, which with the dictionary was reconstructed to the above, choosing tone ´ because it is literary whereas tone ¯ is vernacular. The video has pethiokainoo, or in fact something I was not certain whether to interpret as loo or noo but surely had an oo, which is why I chose nóo. – MickG Sep 16 '14 at 9:10
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  1. nóo vs.

These two are both for literary pronunciation. Since 白頭偕老(白头偕老) is a traditional Chinese idiomatic expression (成語 Chengyu), we tend to pronounce it in the literary way.

The difference between these two might be in the sub-dialect aspect. I'd pronounce it as pe̍h-thâu-kai-ló since it's easier for me to pronounce. But I reckon that pe̍h-thiô-kai-nóo is considered more sophisticated and authentic generally.

  1. láu vs. lāu

These are indeed two common pronunciations for . But I humbly argue that these two are not very likely to be used in this particular context 白頭偕老(白头偕老) (at least in my neighborhood).

I have recorded a clip saying pe̍h-thâu-kai-ló, so you can cross-check with the CD that you mentioned above. Go to pe̍h-thâu-kai-ló if you don't mind my Donald Duck voice.

  1. Hokkien has many sub-dialects, so sometimes people (like myself) might need to be more open-minded about "what is the right way to say a certain word?".

Note and reference:

  1. My parents are from the northern part and the middle part of Taiwan. They use Hokkien(Min Nan) as their first spoken language.

  2. The singer in the music video is from southern part of Taiwan.

  3. I use Mandarin as my first spoken language.

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If using the literal pronounciation totally like reading classical chinese, it might be "Pi̍k thiô Kai ló" (Zhangzhou dialect) or "Pi̍k thôo Kai nóo" (Quanzhou dialect.) It seems that ló/nóo and thiô/thôo only differs in accents.

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