Prosody and Learning a Language

Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby Stephen Carlson » February 20th, 2013, 5:24 pm

From a recent post, Pitch Perfect, by the Economist's language blogger:

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.
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby Louis L Sorenson » February 21st, 2013, 12:03 am

Are you talking about The Prosody of Greek Speech By A. M. Devine Professor of Classics Stanford University, Chapel Hill Laurence D. Stephens Adjunct Professor of Classics University of North Carolina? Google books: http://books.google.com/books?id=poau61NlcP4C&printsec=frontcover&dq=The+prosody+of+greek+speech&hl=en&sa=X&ei=OZwlUezwMsjnrAHazYHYDg&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAA

You can get the e-book version for $36.

Here is the WorldCat link to find it in a library near you: http://www.worldcat.org/title/prosody-of-greek-speech/oclc/29876818&referer=brief_results
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby MAubrey » February 21st, 2013, 1:07 am

That's the one. It incredibly technical. And is in many ways useless simply because it tries to cover too much ground--much of it unnecessarily.
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby Stephen Carlson » February 21st, 2013, 3:09 am

Good to see that it can be had for $36, but I meant inaccessible in terms of being over technical.
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby Stephen Carlson » January 15th, 2014, 5:29 am

Available online is an article by Devine and Stephens on the Greek phonological phrase (which was later incorporated into their book The Prosody of Greek Speech) .
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby Paul-Nitz » January 15th, 2014, 3:04 pm

Very interesting. It jibes with what I've been thinking. I think we teachers should pay very close attention to consistent pronunciation of the consonants, vowels, and accents.

But I wonder if we need to do anything more than that. If we let our native prosody take over from there, it will be very consistent.

Learning a new prosody is very difficult for 2nd language speakers. I think attempts to adopt a foreign prosody (such as applying Modern Greek prosody to Ancient Greek) would result in all sorts of inconsistent approximations of the "correct" prosody.

In learning, consistency is king. I'd say Ancient Greek speakers should use their native prosody. They can do that with no effort whatsoever and with perfect consistency.

(As far as the tonal aspect of Greek, I think it's ludicrous to think we can reproduce it. All, save one, recordings of Restored Attic that I have heard did not sound like a genuine language to me.)

here's the "save one"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_jnHuiB_5M
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » January 15th, 2014, 4:03 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote:(As far as the tonal aspect of Greek, I think it's ludicrous to think we can reproduce it.)

Why?
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby MAubrey » January 15th, 2014, 7:09 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote:As far as the tonal aspect of Greek, I think it's ludicrous to think we can reproduce it.

No worries. Koine wasn't tonal anyway.
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby Stephen Carlson » January 15th, 2014, 7:35 pm

MAubrey wrote:
Paul-Nitz wrote:As far as the tonal aspect of Greek, I think it's ludicrous to think we can reproduce it.

No worries. Koine wasn't tonal anyway.

Not sure I would agree with Horrocks on that. The main evidence for the tonal system used by Devine and Stephens, the Delphic Hymns and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, dates to the Koine period.
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Re: Prosody and Learning a Language

Postby MAubrey » January 15th, 2014, 9:26 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:
MAubrey wrote:
Paul-Nitz wrote:As far as the tonal aspect of Greek, I think it's ludicrous to think we can reproduce it.

No worries. Koine wasn't tonal anyway.

Not sure I would agree with Horrocks on that. The main evidence for the tonal system used by Devine and Stephens, the Delphic Hymns and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, dates to the Koine period.


...

I said nothing about Horrocks. Devine and Stephens make no claims about the Koine period. The dates of the evidence vs. the date of the system are two distinct things. You of all people should know that.
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