magma wrote:(By the way, does anybody know how well spelling works in Italian today compared to Latin?)
Italian writing is very phonetic; you can correctly write almost any word just by knowing how it's pronounced. However, you don't necessarily know how to pronounce it based on how it's spelled (the most major issue is that the writing system often doesn't indicate stress, although Latin writing indicated neither vowel length nor stress).
Spanish works the opposite way: you can pronounce any word from how it's spelled, but you can't necessarily spell it from how it's pronounced. For example, "aya", "haya" and "halla" are all pronounced the same, so you don't know which form to write without context. As a Spanish student, though, I have never had any difficulty remembering the correct spelling of words, though I do often catch native speakers making these mistakes. Maybe it's because my native language, English, has many more spelling issues, so I'm much more aware of spelling than the average native Spanish speaker.
I'm not sure why you singled out Italian, by the way, since Spanish, French, etc. descended from Latin just like Italian did. Though I don't have to tell you how messed up French spelling is.
Yudan Taiteki wrote:AFAIK, Latin orthography was largely phonetic, although it didn't use spaces or punctuation and collapsed several sounds together (i.e. I and J).
Just to be clear, the "J" Yudan speaks of is actually the sound we represent in English with "Y". "I" and "Y" aren't really different enough sounds that collapsing them into one letter is likely to cause confusion anyway (except "yi" would look strange as "ii", but Latin didn't have the "yi" sound anyway).