Batak script

Surat Batak
Surat Batak.svg
Type Abugida
Languages Batak languages
Time period
c. 1300–present
Parent systems

Origins of Brahmi script unclear. On Aramaic origin hypothesis:

Proto-Sinaitic alphabet
Sister systems

Direct family relationships unclear. Sister scripts on hypothesis of common Kawi origin:

Old Sundanese
ISO 15924 Batk, 365
Direction Left-to-right
Unicode alias

The Batak script, called locally surat Batak, is an abugida used to write the Austronesian Batak languages spoken by several million people on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.


In most Batak communities, only the priests, or datu were able to use the Batak script, and used it mainly for magical texts and calendars. 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.[citation needed] The script soon fell out of use and is now only used for ornamental purposes.


The Batak script was probably derived from Pallava and Old Kawi alphabets, which ultimately were derived from the Brahmi alphabet, the root of almost all the Indic and Southeast Asian abugidas.


Batak is written from up to down within one line, and left to right for lines. Like most abugidas, 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 ŋ, 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 baŋ (ŋ is above the consonant); and bing is baŋ.i. Final consonants are written with the pangolat (here represented by "#"): bam is However, bim is written 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.


Batak script is called surat na sampulu sia (the nineteen letters) or si-sia-sia. 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:

Sia (Letters)
Transcription A Ha Ka Ba Pa Na Wa Ga Ja Da Ra Ma Ta Sa Ya Nga La Nya Ca Nda Mba I U
Karo A Ha Ka Ba Pa Na1 Wa Ga Ja Da Ra Ma Ta Sa Ya Nga La Ca5 I I
Mandailing A Ha Ka Ba Pa Wa Ga Ra Ma Ta Sa4 Ya La Nya Ca
Pakpak A Ha Ka Ba Pa Wa Ga Ra Ma Ta Sa Ya La Ca
Toba A Ha Ka Ba Pa Wa2 Ga Ra Ma Ta3 Sa Ya La Nya
Simalungun A Ha Ka Ba Pa Wa Ga Ra Ma Ta Sa Ya La Nya Nda Mba6

Alternate forms:
^1 Na (used in Mandailing) ^2 Wa ^3 Ta ^4 Sa ^5 Ca ^6 Mba


Diacritics are used to change the pronunciation of a letter. They can change the vowel from the inherent /a/, mark a final [velar nasal] /ŋ/, mark a final velar fricative /x/, or indicate a final consonant with no vowel:

Batak Diacritics      Latin
Batak Diacritics with /ka/
Karo Mand. Pakp. Sima. Toba Karo Mand. Pakp. Sima. Toba
-a ka Ka Ka Ka Ka Ka
-e -E
-E -E
-E -E ke Ke
Ke Ke
Ke Ke
-i -I
-I -I -I -I ki Ki
Ki Ki Ki Ki
-o -O
-O -O -O -O ko Ko
Ko Ko Ko Ko
-ou -Ou kou Kou
-u -U -U -U -U -U ku Ku Ku Ku Ku Ku
-ng -Ng -Ng -Ng -Ng -Ng kang Kang Kang Kang Kang Kang
-h -H -H -H kah Kah Kah Kah
- - - - - k K K K K K

Ligatures with U

The diacritic for U used by Mandailing, Pakpak, Simalungun, and Toba can form ligatures with its base letter:

Batak Script Description
A  + -U A  a + -u = u
A  + -U U a + -u = u (Simalungun)
Ha  + -U Hu  ha + -u = hu (Mandailing)
Ha  + -U Hu  ha + -u = hu (Simalungun)
Ha  + -U Hu  ha + -u = hu
Ka  + -U Ku  ka + -u = ku (Mandailing)
Ba  + -U Bu  ba + -u = bu
P  + -U Pu  pa + -u = pu (Mandailing)
Pa  + -U Pu  pa + -u = pu (Pakpak, Toba)
Pa  + -U Pu  pa + -u = pu (Simalungun)
Na  + -U Nu  na + -u = nu
Na  + -U Nu  na + -u = nu (Mandailing)
Wa  + -U Wu  wa + -u = wu (Mandailing, Toba)
Wa  + -U Wu  wa + -u = wu (Pakpak, Toba)
Wa  + -U Wu  wa + -u = wu (Simalungun)
Ga  + -U Gu  ga + -u = gu
Ga  + -U Gu  ga + -u = gu (Simalungun)
Ja  + -U Ju  ja + -u = ju
Batak Script Description
Da  + -U Du  da + -u = du
Ra  + -U Ru  ra + -u = ru
Ra  + -U Ru  ra + -u = ru (Simalungun)
Ma  + -U Mu  ma + -u = mu
Ma  + -U Mu  ma + -u = mu (Simalungun)
Ta  + -U Tu  ta + -u = tu
Ta  + -U Tu  ta + -u = tu
Sa  + -U Su  sa + -u = su (Pakpak)
Sa  + -U Su  sa + -u = su (Mandailing)
Sa  + -U Su  sa + -u = su (Mandailing)
Sa  + -U Su  sa + -u = su (Simalungun)
Ya  + -U Yu  ya + -u = yu
Ya  + -U Yu  ya + -u = yu (Simalungun)
Nga  + -U Ngu  nga + -u = ngu
La  + -U Lu  la + -u = lu
La  + -U Lu  la + -u = lu (Simalungun)
Nya  + -U Nyu  nya + -u = nyu
Ca  + -U Cu  ca + -u = cu (Mandailing)


In Mandailing, the diacritic tompi can be used to change the sound of some letters:

ha  + tompi ka sa  + tompi ca
Ha  + tompi A  Ha  + tompi A 
Ha  + tompi A  Ha  + tompi A 
Ha  + tompi A  Ha  + tompi A 

Placement of diacritics for Ng and H

The diacritics for Ng (-Ng) and H (-H) are usually written above spacing vowel diacritics instead of above the base letter.
Examples: Ping ping, Pong pong, Peh peh, and Pih pih.

Diacritic reordering for closed syllables

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:

ta  +  vowel  +  pa  +  pangolat  =  syllable
Ta + Pa + pangolat = Tap
ta + pa + pangolat = tap
Ta + -E + Pa + pangolat = Tep
ta + e + pa + pangolat = tep
Ta + -E + Pa + pangolat = Tep
ta + e + pa + pangolat = tep
Ta + -I + Pa + pangolat = Tip
ta + i + pa + pangolat = tip
Ta + -O + Pa + pangolat = Top
ta + o + pa + pangolat = top
Ta + -U + Pa + pangolat = Tup
ta + u + pa + pangolat = tup

Punctuation and Ornaments

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.

Examples Name Function
bindu na metek

bindu na metek
Bindu na metek (small bindu) Begins paragraphs and stanzas
bindu pinarboras
Bindu panarboras (rice-shaped bindu) Variant of bindu na metek, serves same function
bindu judul
Bindu judul (title bindu) Separates a title from the body of the text
bindu pangolat
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. Grey areas in the chart below indicate non-assigned code points:

Batak[1] chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1BFx ᯿
1.^ As of Unicode version 6.3


Unicode fonts for Batak must handle several requirements to properly render text:

Rendering Requirements Examples
Latin Trans. Image Unicode Text
Correct placement of one or more diacritics  ke Ke ᯂᯩ
ke (Mand.) Ke ᯄ᯦ᯩ
ping Ping ᯇᯪᯰ
reng Ping ᯓᯩᯰ
Ligatures with U hu (Mand.) Hu ᯄᯮ
hu (Sima.) Hu ᯃᯮ
gu Gu ᯎᯮ
lu Lu ᯞᯮ
Diacritic reordering for closed syllables tip Tip ᯖᯪᯇ᯲



External links