On Tue, 08 Jun 2004 16:02:36 -0000, suzmccarth <suzmccarth@...>

> My own children learned to read from French syllable charts 10 years
> ago in Vancouver.
> I will have to consult some cognitive psychologists on how important
> linearity and sequence are as well as visual versus phonetic.

I'm almost passionate about this general topic; I learned phonetically,
and perhaps with some syllabic help, from my mother (who was born in
1904). I probably had an aptitude, because I have been able to spell so
well that it's impolite to give details.

It wasn't until the appearance of "Why Johnny Can't Read", by Rudolf
Flesch, that I truly became aware of what is sometimes called the "whole
word" method. In high school, I was amazed to see a month misspelled as
"Octember", but that, alone, didn't awaken me.

Especially after reading Flesch, I became fanatically opposed to the
"whole word" method, because people taught by that method are appallingly
sub-literate when required to read aloud an unfamiliar word with more than
two or three letters. The trade name "Yodolo" is hopelessly difficult,
and the names "Murray" and "Swain" are too difficult for countless
Americans to read aloud or to spell; people with those names have assured
me of that.

Reinforcing my fanaticism were the statements that the "whole word" method
became the required scheme without having first been tested, and also that
some teachers could be (and probably were) fired for teaching the phonetic
aspects of the alphabet.

A recent body of text that circulated around the Internet had letters
(within words) scrambled, except that the first and last letters were
unchanged. What appalled me was that a sub-literate friend agreed with
[the content of the scrambled message] that it was not at all difficult to
read. (For me, it was not easy; I had to unscramble many words as I read.)

Around Waltham and this part of Massachusetts, the geographical name
Waverley is commonplace. However, countless people seem brain-dead when it
comes to noticing the second "e", and can be trusted to misspell it as
"Waverly", even when setting up a business using that name, on Waverley
Oaks Road. There seems to be a text-to-phonetic transformation when
reading, and a phonetic-to-text inverse transform when writing; spelling
details are lost. More than once, I have had to risk being impolite with
people who insisted on re-spelling my last name as "Bodly" or "Brody",
when I was giving personal information that they were keying into a

Quote from Machine Design, Editorial Comment, May 23, 2002: (Approx. quote)
"The Western Illinois University basketball team appeared in photos in its
media guide wearing jerseys with the state name misspelled as 'Illinios'.
Then, the team played six home games wearing the jerseys. Still, nobody

As Life went on (I'm now 68), I almost had to accept that the "whole word"
method is far(?) preferable for some children, although I'm not sure of

Some months ago, I commented on the by-no-means-rare omission of middle
syllables, as in the ubiquitous "Sorry for the inconvience" signs; a
Qalamite kindly alerted me to the term "haplology".

About a decade ago, fairly sure in Mangajin (when it was still available
in print) a short item explained that among Japanese children with
difficulties learning to read, some have trouble with the kanas and romaji
(Romaji?), while others have trouble with the kanji. I concluded that
separate and different neural recognition networks/algorithms must be
required (and develop) to read these two different systems.

It didn't take long to realize, with some degree of horror, that "whole
word" apparently implicitly regards a word as being an almost-arbitrary
collection of a set of approx. 50 or 60 glyphs* that are fitted into an
imaginary wide, low box, much the way the Korean alphabet is fitted into
square boxes; I need not say much about CJK here. With this insight, I
started to understand somewhat better why it's apparently excruciatingly
difficult for some people to spell some words with any reliable degree of

*Accounting, of course, for both the small and capital glyphs; I tried to
count them, once, including typeface variations in, for instance, [a] and
[g]. Is there any generally-accepted count of distinctly-different glyphs?

Marco's syllable chart and his description of a third method for learning
were extremely interesting, and have my mind pondering as a background
task (computer term) whether there might be yet a third recognition
process that's used by some of us.

I'd truly love to better understand what happens as I read; I read fast,
although not remarkably so by any means. I'm even beginning to recognize a
very few Russian words without letter-by-letter analysis.

In this general vein, I'v recently been fascinated by names and words that
slowed my reading almost to a dead stop. They typically required a few
seconds' analysis, looking for "split points" and re-scanning. Naturally,
some were much easier than others. A lifetime's worth of reading left me
unprepared for them; I'm only a dilettante follower of writing systems and
languages, essentially. Some specimens:

Names: Hrynczyszyn (Ukrainian; taught to me by Ms. H.), Nankeolyar
(realtively easy), Zalalutdinov, Habyarimana, Cannavacciuolo,
Mnatsakanyan, Krysieniel (fairy easy), Cuauhtlahtoatzin, and
Boduthakurufaanu. Then, there's the name of an Hittite king that begins
with "Suppi..." Of course, some names in India, Thailand, and maybe Sri
Lanka and The Malagasy Republic can be quite long, as I recall.
Difficult words: Amaukgqwigqwi (Amank...?), gyfrifianellau, and

Just what it is, perhaps extremely-unfamiliar letter clusters, that
initially slowed me down so much, I don't really know. (Aging brain? :) )

None of these is likely to slow down a linguist by much, I suspect. :)

{Irrelevant, but noted while Googling: "Madagasar", no "c"}

Topic for research: Live, functional (PET?) brain scans, of subjects who
learned to read by different methods.

As to whether this message is on-topic or not, I'm not so sure...

Apologies for any remaining typos; if they look weird, its because I use
the Dvorak letter layout.

My regards to all,

Nicholas Bodley /*|*\ Waltham, Mass.
LYSDEXICS UNTIE! (Yrs trly is slightly lysdexic)
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