Literature on the acquisition of reading is mainly based on alphabetic orthographies and is largely silent on alphasyllabic orthographies. This article presents a study into the understanding of akshara (the orthographic unit of an alphasyllabary) in a group of Grade three children learning to read Malayalam. The study found that, by Grade three, the children had mastered independent vowels and consonants with inherent vowels. However, they did not have a good grasp of consonants with vowel diacritics and consonant clusters. These findings are discussed in the article in the context of similar studies in other alphasyllabaries and alphabetic orthographies.

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