Batak script and languages

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Batak Batak

The Batak script, or surat Batak, is sometimes used to write the Batak languages, which are spoken in the north of Sumatra in Indonesia. Traditionally the Batak script was only used by datu (priests), and they used it to write magical texts and calendars.

Batak is thought to be a descendent of the Pallava and Old Kawi scripts, which ultimately were derived from the Brahmi script of ancient India. Or it might be a descendent of a hypothetical Proto-Sumatran script, with Pallava influences.

After Europeans - first German missionaries, then the Dutch - began visiting Batak-speaking areas from 1878 the Batak script was taught in schools, along with the Roman alphabet, and teaching and religious material was published in the script.

Not long after the First World War missionaries decided to stop using the Batak script in books. Since then the script has been used mainly for decoration purposes.

Notable features

  • Type of writing system: syllabic alphabet - each consonant (aksara) has an inherent vowel. Other vowels or the absence of vowels can be indicated using diacritics which appear above, below or after the consonant letter.
  • Direction of writing: traditionally written from bottom to top in vertical columns running from left to right on strips of bamboo held together with string.

Used to write:

The Batak languages of northern Sumatra - Karo Batak, Toba Batak, Dairi Batak, Simalungun/Timur, Angkola and Mandailing Batak, and occasionally Malay.

There are slight variations in the letters and vowel diacritics used to write each language.

Karo Batak syllabic alphabet

Karo Batak is a Malayo-Polynesian language with about 600,000 spoken in the central and northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Karo Batak syllabic alphabet

Vowel diacritics with ka

Karo Batak vowel diacritics

Toba Batak syllabic alphabet

Dairi Batak, which is also known as Batak Toba and Batta, is a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken by about 2 million people in the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Toba Batak syllabic alphabet

Vowel diacritics with ka

Toba Batak vowel diacritics

Tower of Babel in Toba Batak

Dairi Batak syllabic alphabet

Dairi Batak, which is also known as Dairi, Pakpak and Pakpak Dairi, is a Malayo-Polynesian language with about 1.2 million speakers in the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Dairi/Pakpak syllabic alphabet

Vowel diacritics with ka

Dairi/Pakpak vowel diacritics

Batak Simalungun syllabic alphabet

Simalungun or Batak Simalung is a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken by about 1.2 million people in the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Simalung/Timur syllabic alphabet

Vowel diacritics with ka

Simalung/Timur vowel diacritics

Tower of Babel in Simalung

Mandaling Batak syllabic alphabet

Mandaling Batak or Batta is a Malayo-Polynesian language with about 400,000 speakers in the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Mandaling Batak syllabic alphabet

Vowel diacritics with ka

Mandaling Batak vowel diacritics

Note

The fonts used on this page were created by Dr Uli Kozok of The University of Hawai'i at Manoa.

Sample text in Batak

Sample text in Batak

Transliteration

Inilah tulisan kita
dibentuk oleh tangan-tangan kita.
Alat-alta kita, sejarah kita.
Kehilangan aksara ini,
bermakna kehilangan diri kita sendir.

Translation

These are our words, shaped
By our hands, our tools,
Our history. Lose them
And we lose ourselves.

Translation and transliteration by Dr Mangantar Napitupulu. Carving and English text by Tim Brookes of endangeredalphabets.com

Links

Information about the Batak script and languages
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batak_script
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batak_languages
http://www.hawaii.edu/indolang/surat
http://ulikozok.com/aksara-batak/

Batak transliterator
http://transtoba2.seige.net/

Malayo-Polynesian languages

Acehnese, Ajië, Aklan, Anutan, Balinese, Batak, Bikol, Bugis, Buhid, Bushi, Cebuano, Cham, Chamorro, Chuukese, Cia-Cia, Cuyonon, Dawan, Drehu, Fijian, Filipino, Futunan, Hanuno'o, Hawaiian, Hiligaynon, Iban, Iloko, Indonesian, Javanese, Kadazandusun, Kapampangan, Kiribati, Madurese, Makasarese, Malagasy, Malay, Mandar, Maori, Maranao, Marshallese, Minangkabau, Moriori, Nauruan, Ndrumbea, Nias, Paamese, Paicî, Palauan, Pangasinan, Pohnpeian, Raga, Rapa Nui, Rarotongan, Rejang, Rotuman, Sakao, Samoan, Central Sinama, Sundanese, Tagabawà, Tagalog, Tagbanwa, Tahitian, Tausūg, Tetum, Tokelauan, Tongan, Toraja-Sa'dan, Tuvaluan, Waray-Waray, Xârâcùù, Yapese,

Other languages written with the Latin alphabet

Syllabic alphabets / abugidas

Ahom, Badaga, Balinese, Batak, Baybayin (Tagalog), Bengali, Brahmi, Buhid, Burmese, Chakma, Cham, Dehong Dai, Devanagari, Dives Akuru, Ethiopic, Evēla Akuru, Fraser, Gondi, Grantha, Gujarati, Gupta, Gurmukhi, Hanuno'o, Javanese, Jenticha, Kaithi, Kannada, Kharosthi, Khmer, Khojki, Kulitan, Lanna, Lao, Lepcha, Limbu, Lontara/Makasar, Malayalam, Manpuri, Modi, Mongolian Horizontal Square Script, Mro, New Tai Lue, Oriya, Pahawh Hmong, Pallava, Phags-pa, Ranjana, Redjang, Shan, Sharda, Siddham, Sindhi, Sinhala, Sorang Sompeng, Sourashtra, Soyombo, Sundanese, Syloti Nagri, Tagbanwa, Takri, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan, Tigalari (Tulu), Tikamuli, Tocharian, Tolong Siki, Varang Kshiti


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