The alphabet is essential in any language, this goes without saying. Knowing how to recognize a letter and put them together to form a word, phrase, sentence is where comprehension all takes place. Porter et al. does not hold back their discussion of the alphabet, the accents, and punctuation. They are very detailed, explaining pretty much everything there is to know about these matters.
The chapter begins with an overview of the concepts that will be taught in the chapter. This is always a helpful thing to do. It gives the learner a foundation to return to if he feels like he is swimming to far in the deep end. And I must say, this chapter is a bit to far in the deep end for the beginner, so much so he may begin to get a bit overwhelmed. This is not to say that the information is not helpful or useful; I just question if it is necessary at this point. Learning a language is not an easy process, so the overload of information at the very beginning may scare off some who are weak of heart and not truly dedicated to learning the language. On the other hand, this may turn out to be a good thing. While it may scare some away from learning Greek, those who are truly dedicated to learning the language may find their perseverance rewarded in the end. I sure hope this is the case.
What I did appreciate about Porter et al. is that the information they provided was beneficial and enlightening. The extra information on the history of the alphabet, form and punctuaction was well placed and useful. For me, I find these quick asides to be not only informational, but also a quick break from the storm. It gives the learner a chance to catch their breath so-to-speak and make sure they are understanding what they have read. There are a few things that I do not recall learning in Mounce. For example, did Mounce ever mention the intervocalic sigma? I do not recall him using that term. On a side note, I do remember my good friend and professor Abner referring to this as the “suicidal sigma.”
Also, Porter et al. go into more linguistic detail in regards to consonant voicing and assimilation. But where I find Mounce to be more helpful in this regards is in his “square of stops” chart. It is charts like that that give the first year student the confidence and encouragement to carry on when things get deep and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. This may be a bit much for the beginner to grasp at first, but it is helpful in the long run. An important section is the discussion on the accents. I found Porter et al. to be much more helpful in understanding the mechanics of the accents and their rules. This was an overlooked part of Mounce; he moved rather quickly through this if my memory serves me correctly.
Overall, I feel like the beginning student may find this chapter a bit daunting. The first chapter should be less intimidating; it should ease the learner into the race, not throw him into arena to run from the raging bull! While not impossible, Porter et al. may take more than a few careful read through until the learner feels like he is tracking with the concepts that are being taught.