Marco Cimarosti wrote:

> I'll reveal you one thing: when I attended the elementary school (in Italy,
> not in Tamil Nadu), I have been taught to write in exactly the same way.
> My father must still have somewhere my 1st grade notebook, which is full of
> drills like these:
> ba be bi bo bu
> ca che chi co cu
> cia ce ci cio cio
> ....
> gna gne gni gno gnu
> ...
> qua que qui quo cu
> ...
> scia sce sci scio sciu
> ...
> va ve vi vo vu
> za ze zi zo zu
> We had about 100 flashcards with all the C+V combinations. After
> familiarizing with separate syllables, we started to compose words such as
> "CANE" ('dog') selecting the two cards "CA" and "NE", or "GNOMO" ('dwarf')
> selecting "GNO" and "MO". Then, we copied out the word on our notebook and
> added a drawing of a dog or a dwarf.
> Only towards the end of 1st grade syllabic flashcards were abandoned as we
> started introducing consonant clusters such as NT in "CANTO" ('song').
> This method (which has now been abandoned, as far as I know) tried to
> exploit the fact that Italian has so many CV syllables, and that children in
> pre-writing age show a natural ability to correctly segment words into
> syllables and a tendency to write one letter per syllable (my 5 year-old
> son, "Martino", still signs his drawing with "MOT": one letter per syllable,
> chosen between the letter that he sees in his name in "adults' writing").

And exactly the same system, mutatis mutandis, was used in the early
spelling books of Webster and McGuffey. In the olden days, educators
recognized instinctively that the syllable, not the segment/letter, is
the minimal unit of speech accessible by the non- or preliterate, and
sensibly taught reading and writing using it. (Apparently it took _me_
to point this out to the grammatological, or I think maybe I'm going to
switch to Hockett's word graphonomic, community.) But, as in Italy, the
approach has been abandoned.

(BTW thanks for the point about Indic not being so weird in using the
four sides of the letter for adding things -- the things being of a
different order obscures the similarity.)
Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...