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The work in this paper concerns the determination of a recognition unit in a small footprint Chinese large vocabulary word recognition system for embedded devices. This paper proposes a method of extending the conventional initial/final phonetic units in Chinese language to be used as a recognition unit. The word recognition performance of the proposed extended initial/final is compared with that of other recognition units, such as syllable, phoneme, triphone and the original initial/final. Under a similar memory usage limitation, the word recognition rates of different recognition units are evaluated. The proposed extended initial/final shows the best performance in a fixed memory usage condition: 93.74%, 94.76%, and 95.42% accuracy for 50K-word recognizer under memory restriction around 500KB, 1MB, and 5MB, respectively.