|Time period||c. 1300–present|
Direct family relationships unclear. Sister scripts on hypothesis of common Kawi origin:Balinese
|ISO 15924||Batk, 365|
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. The script soon fell out of use and is now only used for ornamental purposes.
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 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.
Batak script is called surat na sampulu sia (the nineteen letters) or si-sia-sia. Each consonant has an inherent vowel of /a/.
Batak letters are ordered differently depending on the language:
- Karo: a, ha, ka, ba, pa, na, wa, ga, ja, da, ra, ma, ta, sa, ya, nga, la, ca, nda, mba, i, u
- Mandailing: a, ha, ka, ba, pa, na, wa, ga, ja, da, ra, ma, ta, sa, ya, nga, la, nya, ca, i, u
- Pakpak/Dairi: a, ha, ka, ba, pa, na, wa, ga, ja, da, ra, ma, ta, sa, ca, ya, nga, la, i, u
- Simalungun/Timur: a, ha, ka, ba, pa, na, wa, ga, ja, da, ra, ma, ta, sa, ya, nga, la, nya, i, u
- Toba: a, ha, ka, ba, pa, na, wa, ga, ja, da, ra, ma, ta, sa, ya, nga, la, nya, i, u
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 with /ka/|
Ligatures with U
The diacritic for U used by Mandailing, Pakpak, Simalungun, and Toba can form ligatures with its base letter:
In Mandailing, the diacritic tompi can be used to change the sound of some letters:
Placement of diacritics for Ng and H
The diacritics for Ng () and H () are usually written above spacing vowel diacritics instead of above the base letter.
Examples: ping, pong, peh, and 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:
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.
||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. Grey areas in the chart below indicate non-assigned code points:
Unicode.org 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||ᯂᯩ|
|Ligatures with U||hu (Mand.)||ᯄᯮ|
|Diacritic reordering for closed syllables||tip||ᯖᯪᯇ᯲|
Batak script carved into a bamboo tube with wooden stopper (Museum of the Tropics in Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Bamboo inscribed with Simalungun Batak script (National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, Netherlands)
Batak palm leaf book (Museum of the Tropics in Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Book of formulas, recipes, and rules applied by Batak priests (Museum of the Tropics in Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Magic book used by priests of the Toba Batak tribe (National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, Netherlands)
- Kozok, Uli (January 2009). Surat Batak: Sejarah Perkembangan Tulisan Batak : Berikut Pedoman Menulis Aksara Batak Dan Cap Si Singamangaraja XII (in Indonesian). Jakarta: Gramedia. ISBN 979-9101-53-0.
- Everson, Michael; Kozok, Uli (7 October 2008), N3320R: Proposal for encoding the Batak script in the UCS
- Kozok, Uli. [dead link] "Kursus Kilat Aksara Batak (Quick Course in Batak Script)" (in Indonesian). Retrieved 20 April 2011.
- Entry on Batak at Omniglot.com – A guide to writing systems
- Transtoba2 – Roman to Toba Batak script transliteration software by Uli Kozok and Leander Seige (GNU GPL)
- Uli Kozok's Batak Script website with free Batak fonts.