|Languages||Buginese language, Makassarese language, Mandar language|
|17th century – present|
The Lontara script is a Brahmic script traditionally used for the Bugis, Makassarese and Mandar languages of Sulawesi in Indonesia. It is also known as the Bugis script, as Lontara documents written in this language are the most numerous.
It was largely replaced by the Latin alphabet during the period of Dutch colonization, though it is still used today to a limited extent. The term Lontara is derived from the Malay name for palmyra palm, lontar, whose leaves are traditionally used for manuscripts. In Buginese, this script is called urupu sulapa eppa which means "four-cornered letters", referencing the Bugis-Makasar belief of the four elements that shaped the universe: fire, water, air and earth.
Lontara is a descendant of the Kawi script, used in Maritime Southeast Asia around 800 CE. It is unclear whether the script is a direct descendant from Kawi, or derived from one of Kawi's other descendants. One theory states that it is modelled after the Rejang script, perhaps due to their graphical similarities. But this claim may be unfounded as some characters of the Lontara are a late development.
The term Lontara has also come to refer to literature regarding Bugis history and genealogy, including the Sure’ Galigo creation myth. Historically, Lontara was also used for a range of documents including contracts, trade laws, treaties, maps, and journals. These documents are commonly written in a contemporary-like book form, but they can be written in a traditional palm-leaf manuscript also called Lontara, in which a long, thin strip of dried lontar is rolled to a wooden axis in similar manner to a tape recorder. The text is then read by scrolling the lontar strip from left to right.
Although the Latin alphabet has largely replaced Lontara, it is still used to a limited extent in Bugis and Makasar. In Bugis, its usage is limited to ceremonial purposes such as wedding ceremonies. Lontara is also used extensively in printing traditional Buginese literature. In Makasar, Lontara is additionally used for personal documents such as letters and notes. Those who are skilled in writing the script are known as palontara, or 'writing specialists'.
Lontara is an abugida with 23 basic consonants. As of other Brahmic scripts, each consonant of Lontara carries an inherent /a/ vowel, which is changed via diacritics into one of the following vowels; /i/, /u/, /e/, /ə/, or /o/. However, Lontara do not have a virama, or other consonant-ending diacritics. Nasal /ŋ/, glottal /ʔ/, and gemination used in Buginese language are not written. As such, text can be highly ambiguous, even to native readers. For instance, ᨔᨑ can be read as sara 'sorrow', sara' 'rule', or sarang 'nest'.
The Buginese people take advantage of this defective element of the script in language games called Basa to Bakke’ ᨅᨔ ᨈᨚ ᨅᨙᨀ ('Language of Bakke’ people') and Elong maliung bəttuanna ᨕᨒᨚ ᨆᨒᨗᨕᨘ ᨅᨛᨈᨘᨕᨊ (literally 'song with deep meaning') riddles. Basa to Bakke’ is similar to punning, where words with different meanings but same spelling are manipulated to come up with phrases that have hidden message. This is similar to Elong maliung bettuanna, in which audience are asked to figure the correct pronunciation of a meaningless poem to reveal the poem's hidden message.
Lontara is written from left to right, but it can also be written boustrophedonically. This method is mostly applied in old Buginese journals, in which each page are reserved for record of one day. If a scribe ran out of writing space for one day's log, the continuing line would be written sideways to the page, following a zig-zag pattern until all space are filled.
The contemporary Lontara script is distinctively angular compared to other Brahmic scripts, succeeding from two older, less angular variant called Toa jangang-jangang (Makasar) and Bilang-bilang. Lontara are written without word space (scriptio continua).
The consonants (indo’ surə’ ᨕᨗᨉᨚ ᨔᨘᨑᨛ or ina’ surə’ ᨕᨗᨊ ᨔᨘᨑᨛ) consist of 23 letters. Like other Indic abugidas, each consonant represents a syllable with the inherent vowel /a/.
As previously mentioned, Lontara does not feature a vowel killer mark, like halant or virama common among Indic scripts. Nasal /ŋ/, glottal /ʔ/, and gemination used in Buginese language are not written (with the exception of accidental initial glottal stops, which are written with the null consonant "a").
Four frequent consonant clusters however, are denoted with specific letters. These are ngka ᨃ, mpa ᨇ, nra ᨋ and nca ᨏ. "Nca" actually represents the sound "nyca" (/ɲca/), but often transcribed only as "nca". Those letters are not used in the Makassarese language. The letter ha ᨖ is a new addition to the script for the glottal fricative due to the influence of the Arabic language.
The diacritic vowels (ana’ surə’ ᨕᨊ ᨔᨘᨑᨛ) are used to change the inherent vowel of the consonants. There are 5 ana’ surə’, with /ə/ not used in the Makassarese language (which does not make a phonological distinction with the inherent vowel). Graphically, they can be divided into two subsets; dots (tətti’) and accents (kəccə’).
|—||Tətti’ riasə’||Tətti’ riawa||kəccə’ riolo||kəccə’ riasə’||kəccə’ rimunri|
Additionally, the third vowel [e] must appear before (to the left) the consonant that it modifies, but must remain logically encoded after that consonant, in conforming Unicode implementations of fonts and text renderers (this case of prepended vowels which occurs in many Indic scripts, does not follow the exception to the Unicode logical encoding order, admitted only for the prepended vowels in the Thai, Lao and Tai Viet scripts). Currently, many fonts or text renderers do not implement this single reordering rule for the Buginese script, and may still incorrectly display that vowel at the wrong position.
To transcribe foreign words as well as reducing ambiguity, recent Buginese fonts include three diacritics that suppress the inherent vowel (virama), the nasalize vowel (anusvara), and mark the glottal end or geminated consonant, depending on the position. These diacritics do not exist in traditional Lontara and are not included into Unicode, but has gained currency among Buginese experts, such as Mr Djirong Basang, who worked with the Monotype Typography project to prepare the Lontara fonts used in the LASERCOMP photo typesetting machine.
Pallawa is used to separate rhythmico-intonational groups, thus functionally corresponds to the period and comma of the Latin script. The pallawa can also be used to denote the doubling of a word or its root.
Buginese was added to the Unicode Standard in March, 2005 with the release of version 4.1.
The Unicode block for Lontara, called Buginese, is U+1A00–U+1A1F:
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
To get the correct display of the prepended vowel [e], installing a font conforming to the standard Unicode encoding of the Buginese script is not enough, because you also need either:
As a consequence, there is still no complete support for this Buginese script in most major Operating Systems and applications.
And the script can only be rendered correctly, temporarily, using either:
For example, the normal and expected encoding of the Buginese syllable ke in texts conforming to the Unicode standard (encoded in logical order) is
which currently renders as ᨀᨙ (this rendering will currently be wrong with many old browsers or on old versions of Windows).
With the third solution above (which is technically still conforming to the Unicode standard, but is logically a distinct orthography using two separate grapheme clusters, which would normally be logically interpreted as (e)ka instead of the plain syllable ke, even if it visually reads as ke), it could instead be specially encoded in tweaked texts (in visual order) as:
which should now render correctly as ᨙᨀ (but note the possible larger left-side and/or right-side bearings around the vowel, which is now shown in isolation separately from the following letter ka, and in the middle of a non-breaking space which may itself be larger than the diacritic; this may be corrected in fonts, by including a single kerning pair for the vowel occurring after a whitespace). Although this solution is not ideal for the long term, text indexers may be adapted for compatibility of this encoding with the recommended encoding exposed in the previous paragraph, by considering this character triple as semantically equivalent as the previous character pair; and future fonts and text layout engines could also render this triple by implementing a non-discretionnary ligature between the two graphemes, so that it will render exactly like the standard character pair (which uses a single grapheme cluster).
There still remain problems with fonts that have minimum coverage in their mapping, because text renderers still not correctly reorder the isolated Buginese vowel e when it follows something else than NBSP or a Buginese consonant (for example when it follows the standard U+0020 SPACE, or the U+25CC DOTTED CIRCLE symbolic placeholder, as recommended in OpenType designs), or because fonts do not have correct kerning rules for additional pairs using any one of the 5 Buginese vowel signs.
|If||you deal with||a person guilty of something,||do not||punish him||too harshly.|
|Always make the||punishment commensurable with the guilt,||since||God will be angry with you,|
|if||the person's||guilt is not great and||you are exaggerating it.|
|If||a person is guilty,||do not||let him go without a punishment in accordance with||his guilt.|
|Once there was||a story,||once upon||a time,|
|about a||princess||in||Luwu,||with leprosy.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lontara alphabet.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Buginese script.|