Thanks to everyone who commented on yesterday’s posting.
I don’t apologize for trying to devise “rules” for selecting an appropriate intonation pattern. They are exactly what typical NNS postgraduate students of phonetics need when faced with the task of marking up intonation on a written dialogue. Furthermore, without rules of the kind I offer they tend to suggest some very implausible patterns. NS students, on the other hand, know intuitively what will do and what won’t, but they can’t explain why. If I pair a NS and a NNS in class, we have the blind leading the blind — until they have some rules.
It’s all very well saying (I quote Glen Gordon)
a language is best learned in an intuitive way with free exploration, personal experimentation, encouragement of careful listening, contemplation, etc.—but faced with a group of Japanese postgraduates who have been learning English for over ten years (often without, let’s be honest, enormous success) you need to offer them something more tangible.
Equally, when Glen writes
So when somebody suggests to have a drink, one says "There's a thought" with emphasis on the deictic to convey that this immediate suggestion is exceptional (compared to all other thoughts by anyone at any time). Likewise "That's a good dog" implies that a particular dog is more than just good; he's exceptionally so in comparison to the average dog.—my reaction is that this is no doubt reasonable, but it doesn’t help. My students will immediately ask WHY the speaker would want to convey that the suggestion is exceptional (because it isn’t, really), and WHY the speaker feels it necessary to say that his dog is “more than just good”. Fine if you do the same thing in your L1; not helpful if you don’t.
Let’s go on with yesterday’s problem of how to supply the NNS learner with rules to generate an acceptable intonation pattern. Back to the dog.
\There’s a clever dog!
Consider the matter logically. Your utterance contains two apparently new lexical items, clever and dog. It also contains a demonstrative, and demonstratives behave like lexical items in that they are by default accented — as mentioned in §3.11 of my book. So in this exclamation there are three likely accents, there’s, clever, dog. We know that the nucleus goes by default on the last of them, which is dog.
However, both you and the dog know that he is a dog. (We have to assume that the dog knows — or perhaps we just have to approach things anthropomorphically.) So you can argue that dog is given, not new. That leaves clever as the last accentable word.
Is clever new? Yes, it’s the whole point of what you’re saying. You’re congratulating the dog on being clever. A “logical” accentuation pattern would therefore be
There’s a \clever dog.But that is not what we say. Strangely, we deaccent clever, even though it might appear to be the most important word. Idiomatically (?), we place the nucleus instead on the demonstrative.
(Oddly enough, it would be fine to say something like
You’re a \clever little dog, | \aren’t you?It’s also fine to say
ˈWhat a ˈclever \dog!So with different wording you can express much the same meaning with the intonation nucleus somewhere else. There’s no general principle that renders clever and dog unaccentable.)
You could construct some kind of post-hoc justification for placing the nucleus on there’s. The dog training we are engaged in has the purpose of making the dog clever. Therefore both dog and clever are given by context. Therefore the nucleus has to go somewhere else, and there’s is the only other possibility.
\/Clever | \dog!
/Who’s a clever dog?
\You’re a clever dog!
\This is a clever dog!
\There’s a clever dog!But be honest: would you have come up with this pattern just by following the rules? No, you need your NS intuition, or to be a speaker of an L1 that does the same thing, or at least to be familiar with what is idiomatic in English.
That was ˈone ˈclever \dog!You ˈsee the \/problem.