Direct family relationships unclear. Sister scripts on hypothesis of common Kawi origin:Balinese
The Batak script, natively known as surat Batak, surat na sampulu sia (the nineteen letters), or si-sia-sia, is a writing system used to write the Austronesian Batak languages spoken by several million people on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The script may be derived from the Kawi and Pallava script, ultimately derived from the Brahmi script of India, or from the hypothetical Proto-Sumatran script influenced by Pallava.
The Batak magicians and priests or datu used the Batak script mainly for magical texts and divinatory purposes. It is unknown how many non-specialists were literate in the Batak script, but judging from the widespread tradition of writing love laments, especially among the Karo, Simalungun, and Angkola-Mandailing Batak, it is likely that a considerable part of the non-specialist population was able to read and write the Batak script. After the arrival of Europeans in the Batak lands, first German missionaries and, from 1878 onwards, the Dutch, the Batak script was, alongside the Roman script, taught in the schools, and teaching and religious materials were printed in the Batak script. Soon after the first World War the missionaries decided to discontinue printing books in the Batak script. The script soon fell out of use and is now only used for ornamental purposes.
Batak is written from left to right and top to bottom. Like all Brahmi-based scripts, each consonant has an inherent vowel of /a/, unless there is a diacritic (in Toba Batak called pangolat) to indicate the lack of a vowel. Other vowels, final ?, and final velar fricative [x] are indicated by diacritics, which appear above, below, or after the letter. For example, ba is written ba (one letter); bi is written ba.i (i follows the consonant); bang is written ba? (? is above the consonant); and bing is ba?.i. Final consonants are written with the pangolat (here represented by "#"): bam is ba.ma.#. However, bim is written ba.ma.i.#: the first diacritic belongs to the first consonant, and the second belongs to the second consonant, but both are written at the end of the entire syllable. Unlike most Brahmi-based scripts, Batak does not form consonant conjuncts.
The basic characters are called surat. Each consonant has an inherent vowel of /a/. The script varies by region and language. The major variants are between Karo, Mandailing, Pakpak/Dairi, Simalungun/Timur, and Toba:
|Surat (Basic characters)|
Diacritics are used to change the pronunciation of a character. They can change the vowel from the inherent /a/, mark a final [velar nasal] /?/, mark a final velar fricative /x/, or indicate a final consonant with no vowel:
|LatinTrans.||Batak Diacritics||LatinTrans.||Batak Diacritics with /ka/|
The diacritic for U used by Mandailing, Pakpak, Simalungun, and Toba can form ligatures with its base character:
In Mandailing, the diacritic tompi can be used to change the sound of some characters:
The diacritics for Ng () and H () are usually written above spacing vowel diacritics instead of above the base character.
Examples: ping, pong, peh, and pih.
Vowel diacritics are reordered for closed syllables (that is, syllables where the final consonant has no vowel). Consonants with no vowel are marked by the Batak pangolat or panongonan diacritic, depending on the language. When they are used for a closed syllable (like "tip"), both the vowel diacritic and the pangolat/panongonan are written at the end of the syllable.
Examples of closed syllables using pangolat:
Batak is normally written without spaces or punctuation (as scriptio continua). However, special marks or bindu are occasionally used. They vary greatly in size and design from manuscript to manuscript.
|Bindu na metek (small bindu)||Begins paragraphs and stanzas|
|Bindu panarboras (rice-shaped bindu)||Variant of bindu na metek, serves same function|
|Bindu judul (title bindu)||Separates a title from the body of the text|
|Bindu pangolat||Trailing punctuation|
Batak script was added to the Unicode Standard in October 2010 with the release of version 6.0.
The Unicode block for Batak is U+1BC0–U+1BFF:
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
Unicode fonts for Batak must handle several requirements to properly render text:
|Latin Trans.||Image||Unicode Text|
|Correct placement of one or more diacritics||ke|
|Ligatures with U||hu (Mand.)|
|Diacritic reordering for closed syllables||tip||?|
Batak script carved into a bamboo tube with wooden stopper (Museum of the Tropics in Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Bamboo inscribed with Simalungun Batak script (National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, The Netherlands)
Batak palm leaf book (Museum of the Tropics in Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Book of formulas, recipes, and rules applied by Batak priests (Museum of the Tropics in Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Magic book used by priests of the Toba Batak tribe (National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, The Netherlands)
Manuscript in Batak Toba language, central Sumatra, early 1800s. (Robert C. Williams Paper Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
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