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Batak alphabet

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Title: Batak alphabet  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Javanese script, Baybayin, Unicode character property, Brahmic scripts, Batak Karo language
Collection: Batak, Brahmic Scripts, Indonesian Scripts, North Sumatra, Scripts Encoded in Unicode 6.0
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Batak alphabet

Surat Batak
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, natively known as surat Batak, surat na sapulu sia (the nineteen letters), or si-sia-sia, is an abugida used to write the Austronesian Batak languages spoken by several million people on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The script may 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.[1]


  • History 1
  • Origin 2
  • Structure 3
  • Letters 4
  • Diacritics 5
    • Ligatures with U 5.1
    • Tompi 5.2
    • Placement of diacritics for Ng and H 5.3
    • Diacritic reordering for closed syllables 5.4
  • Punctuation and ornaments 6
  • Unicode 7
    • Block 7.1
    • Rendering 7.2
  • Gallery 8
  • Citations 9
  • Sources 10
  • External links 11


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.


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 bottom to top within one column, and left to right for columns. 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.


Letters are called 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)
IPA a ha ka ba pa na wa ga dʒa da ra ma ta sa ja ŋa la ɲa tʃa nda mba i u
Transcription a ha ka ba pa na wa ga ja da ra ma ta sa ja nga la nya ca nda mba i u

Alternate forms:
^1 (used in Mandailing) ^2 ^3 ^4 ^5 ^6


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


-ou kou
-u ku
-ng kang
-h kah

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 = u
 + a + -u = u (Simalungun)
 +   ha + -u = hu (Mandailing)
 +   ha + -u = hu (Simalungun)
 +   ha + -u = hu
 +   ka + -u = ku (Mandailing)
 +   ba + -u = bu
 +   pa + -u = pu (Mandailing)
 +   pa + -u = pu (Pakpak, Toba)
 +   pa + -u = pu (Simalungun)
 +   na + -u = nu
 +   na + -u = nu (Mandailing)
 +   wa + -u = wu (Mandailing, Toba)
 +   wa + -u = wu (Pakpak, Toba)
 +   wa + -u = wu (Simalungun)
 +   ga + -u = gu
 +   ga + -u = gu (Simalungun)
 +   ja + -u = ju
Batak Script Description
 +   da + -u = du
 +   ra + -u = ru
 +   ra + -u = ru (Simalungun)
 +   ma + -u = mu
 +   ma + -u = mu (Simalungun)
 +   ta + -u = tu
 +   ta + -u = tu
 +   sa + -u = su (Pakpak)
 +   sa + -u = su (Mandailing)
 +   sa + -u = su (Mandailing)
 +   sa + -u = su (Simalungun)
 +   ya + -u = yu
 +   ya + -u = yu (Simalungun)
 +   nga + -u = ngu
 +   la + -u = lu
 +   la + -u = lu (Simalungun)
 +   nya + -u = nyu
 +   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
 +    +  
 +    +  
 +    +  

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:

ta  +  vowel  +  pa  +  pangolat  =  syllable
+ + =
ta + pa + pangolat = tap
+ + + =
ta + e + pa + pangolat = tep
+ + + =
ta + e + pa + pangolat = tep
+ + + =
ta + i + pa + pangolat = tip
+ + + =
ta + o + pa + pangolat = top
+ + + =
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 (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)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1BFx ᯿
1.^ As of Unicode version 8.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


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 ᯂᯩ
ke (Mand.) ᯄ᯦ᯩ
ping ᯇᯪᯰ
reng ᯒᯩᯰ
Ligatures with U hu (Mand.) ᯄᯮ
hu (Sima.) ᯃᯮ
gu ᯎᯮ
lu ᯞᯮ
Diacritic reordering for closed syllables tip ᯖᯪᯇ᯲



  1. ^ Uli Kozok. "Sejarah Aksara Batak". Retrieved 17 May 2014. 


  • Kozok, Uli (January 2009). Surat Batak: Sejarah Perkembangan Tulisan Batak : Berikut Pedoman Menulis Aksara Batak Dan Cap Si Singamangaraja XII (in Indonesian). Jakarta: Gramedia.  
  • Kozok, Uli. [Category:All articles with dead external links] "Kursus Kilat Aksara Batak (Quick Course in Batak Script)"] (in Indonesian). Retrieved 20 April 2011. 

External links

  • Entry on Batak at – 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.
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