Previous word production research employing the implicit priming paradigm has shown that speakers can benefit from the advanced knowledge of the initial word form of the word to be produced. In Dutch and English, a single onset segment is sufficient to produce the benefit, but a complete syllable is required in Mandarin Chinese. The absence of an onset effect in Mandarin Chinese might have to do with the orthographic characteristics of the prompts, which are syllable-based and could have motivated the production system to place more emphasis on the syllable than on the segment. The present study employed the same paradigm but with spoken prompts in addition. It turned out that there was a syllable effect but not a segment effect, irrespective of the modality of the prompts. The findings suggest that the proximate unit in Mandarin Chinese word production is an intrinsic effect, and not an accidental, task-dependent artifact.