R. L. Johnson wrote:TWO years ago at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Janet Werker, from the University of British Columbia, presented results of a study showing that newborns which had been exposed to two different languages while still in the womb could tell them apart after birth. At this year's shindig, held on February 14th-18th in Boston, Dr Werker presented her latest findings on bilingual babies. This time, she looked at seven-month-olds to see how they manage to pull off the trick of distinguishing languages before they have any inkling of grammar. She and her colleague Judit Gervain explain that what the tykes discriminate is prosody, or cues which relate to pitch and duration of words in an utterance. And prosody, in turn, serves as a cue to the acquisition of grammar.
If this result is right, I think it shows not just that aural input is important for learning a language (which we all knew), but that it is the prosody that's important.
Here is where aural instruction by people fluent in speaking and phrasing Greek with the proper prosody (intonation) should be helpful for students learning the language. There's a place for a good pronunciation of the individual consonants and vowels, but, as long as the phonemes are properly distinguished, I think it's more important that teacher get the prosody right and convey it to their students.
Unfortunately, prosody is under-researched for ancient Greek. There is one good monograph on it by Devine and Stevens, but it is fairly inaccessible, even by specialists.