True/false activities are also useful for demonstrating the role of the Expression stratum in highlighting given and new information within a clause. Let’s take two examples:
- The boy is 11 years old.
- He rides his bike to school.
In the first example, the new information is ’11 years old’ which, in an unmarked clause, is given tonic prominence: The boy is 11 years old. In the second example, we find a more complex weak-strong iambic pattern, He rides his bike to school, that highlights certain elements within the clause.
When we present these two as being true or false, however, the focus of given and new information changes in a slight, but important, way. If we take the first example first, the given information becomes the entire previous clause, The boy is 11 years old, packaged as a single nominal group (it could be replaced with ‘it’) while the new information is is true. This change is reflected in the Expression stratum:
- The boy is 11 years old is true
The given information is spoken quickly and without any tonic prominence, which moves to the word false. The two pieces of given information (The boy is/The boy is 11 years old is) would take roughly the same time to be spoken. Similarly with the second example, we move from an iambic pattern to one in which there is a single piece of new information:
- The boy rides his bike to school is false
Again, the given information is spoken quickly and without stress.
This difference in speed and intonation indicating a nominalised clause can be difficult for both elementary and advanced students (Japanese, for example, does this grammatically with either the particle の, no, plus a topic marker は, wa, or 事, koto). Using true/false activities can be a good way of pointing out the difference.