On behalf of Akiko Ohkita, one of his students, Masaki Taniguchi asks what would be an appropriate intonation pattern for the phrase I have never been there in this passage, taken from a junior high school textbook.
The place I want to visit is Korea. My email friend, Mina, lives in Seoul. She writes to me about schools, movies, and music in Korea. I write to her about life in Japan. Korea is close to Japan, but I have never been there.
The textbook says that this been should be pronounced with a weak form, implying that it would not be accented.
Masaki, however, rightly thinks that been can be stressed and may even carry a nucleus in this context. As he says, visit was mentioned at the beginning, but is too distant to be counted as given/old information. He wonders if it would be possible to deaccent been in this context and place a nucleus on the first syllable of never. Are both options possible, he asks, depending on the speaker's mind?
The first thing to say is that the textbook is clearly wrong. It seems to me that native speakers would virtually always choose to place a nuclear accent on been.
(Or the nuclear tone might be a fall-rise. In idiomatic English, we’d probably include the word actually, too.) The typical Japanese error, I suspect, would be to accent never but not been:
It would be possible to give never a nuclear accent, but only, I think, if there were another one on been.
Alternatively, it would be possible to place a contrastive accent on I’ve, to convey an implicit or explicit implication.
This is one of the cases where been seems to function almost as the past participle of go. We say I go there often, I’ve been there often. In this context it is a content word.
Been is not a word for which it is useful to speak of strong and weak forms. Although there may be people who use biːn as the strong form, bɪn as the weak, Americans usually have bɪn as the only form, used in strong position as well as weak, while conversely in BrE there is nothing odd about using biːn in weak positions.
Judging by the spelling mistakes one sees, many people must pronounce been and being as homophones. Not me!