Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Lontara script

The Lontara script is descended from the Brahmi script of ancient India. The name lontara derives from the Malay word for the palmyra palm, lontar, the leaves of which are the traditional material for manuscripts in India, South East Asia and Indonesia.

Notable features

Type of writing system: syllabic alphabet / alphasyllabary
Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines
In common with other Brahmi-derived syllabic alphabets, each consonant has an inherent vowel [a], other vowels are indicated by adding diacritics above or below a consonant.

Used to write:

Bugis or Buginese (ᨅᨔ ᨕᨘᨁᨗ), Makassarese (ᨅᨔ ᨆᨀᨔᨑ) and Mandar, Austronesian languages spoken on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Both scripts were once used to write laws, treaties, maps, etc in Bugis, but are now only used for marriage ceremonies. The Makasar script is still widely used to write Makasar, although the Latin alphabet is officially favoured.

Lontara script for Bugis


Sample text in the Lontara script in Bugis

Sample text in Bugis (Latin alphabet)

Sininna rupa tau ri jajiangngi rilinoe nappunnai manengngi riasengnge alebbireng . Nappunai riasengnge akkaleng, nappunai riasengnge ati marennni na sibole bolena pada sipakatau pada massalasureng.


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)


buginese (Basa Ugi, elsewhere also Bahasa Bugis, Bugis, Bugi, De) is the language spoken by about four million people mainly in the southern part of Sulawesi, Indonesia.

he word Buginese derives from the word Bahasa Bugis in Malay. In Buginese, it is called Basa Ugi while the Bugis people are called To Ugi. Ugi in Buginese means The First King which refers to the first king of the ancient Bugis kingdom, Cina.

Little is known about the early history of this language due to the lack of written records. The earliest written record of this language is Sureq Galigo, the epic creation myth of the Bugis people.

Another written source of Buginese is Lontara, a term which refers to the traditional script and historical record as well. However the earliest historical record of Lontara dates to around the 17th century and cannot be accepted as a reliable source of history since it was influenced by myths.

Prior to the Dutch arrival in the 18th[clarification needed] century, a missionary, B.F. Matthews, translated the bible into Buginese, which made him the first European to acquire knowledge of the language. He was also one of the first Europeans to master Makassarese. The dictionaries and grammar books compiled by him and the literature and folkfore texts he published remain basic sources of information about both languages.

But unlike most other Brahmic scripts of India, the Buginese script traditionally does not have any virama sign (or alternate half-form for vowel-less consonnants, or subjoined form for non-initial consonnants in clusters) to suppress the inherent vowel, so it is normally impossible to write consonnant clusters (a few ones were added later, derived from ligatures, to mark the prenasalisation), geminated consonnants or final consonnants.

Older texts, however, usually did not use diacritics at all, and readers were expected to identify words from context and thus provide the correct pronunciation. As one might expect, this led to erroneous readings; for example, bolo could be misread as bala by new readers.


No comments: