Sundanese (as Cacarakan)
|Time period||c. 13th–present|
|ISO 15924||Java, 361|
|Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols.|
The Javanese alphabet, natively known as Hanacaraka (ꦲꦤꦕꦫꦏ) or Carakan (ꦕꦫꦏꦤ꧀), known by the Sundanese people as Cacarakan (ꦕꦕꦫꦏꦤ꧀) is the pre-colonial script used to write the Javanese language. The Javanese term for this script is "Dentawiyanjana".
Javanese language nowadays is written mainly in the Latin alphabet, instead of Javanese script, for practical purposes. As of 2009 Javanese script has already been added to Unicode in version 5.2. Even so, since its complex script can only displayed using SIL Graphite technology, which is only available in Firefox browser, Thunderbird email client, and several open source word processors, writing and rendering Javanese on a computer still not as easy as writing in Latin, therefore it hasn't gained any currency except among preservationists.
Javanese and Balinese are modern variants of the old Kawi script, a Brahmic script introduced to Java along with Hinduism and Buddhism. Kawi is first attested in a legal document from 804 CE. It was widely used in literature and translations from Sanskrit from the tenth century; by the seventeenth, the script is identified as carakan. A Latin orthography based on Dutch was introduced in 1926, revised in 1972–1973, and has largely supplanted the carakan.
Currently, there are only a few newspapers and magazines being printed in the Javanese script, such as "Jaka Lodhang". However it is still taught in most elementary school and some junior high school as of compulsory subject in Javanese language areas.
The Javanese script is an abugida. Each of the twenty letter represents a syllable with a consonant (or a "zero consonant") and the inherent vowel 'a' which is pronounced as /ɔ/ in open position. Various diacritics placed around the letter indicate a different vowel than [ɔ], a final consonant, or a foreign pronunciation.
Letters have subscript forms used to transcribe consonant clusters. Some have "capital" forms used in proper names. However, every letter in the name is capitalized, not just the first. Punctuation includes a comma; period; a mark that covers the colon, quotations, and indicates numerals; and marks to introduce a chapter, poem, song, or letter.
Javanese characters are written slanted to the side and below the line, and there are no word boundaries (Scriptio continua). Therefore the reader of Javanese script has to be familiar with the text he's about to read to know the word boundaries.
Basic consonants 
There are 20 basic letters, or Aksara nglegena (literally means "bare letters"), in the Javanese writing used to write modern Javanese language. When writing old Javanese however, the script has 33 basic letters. These additional letters represents sounds which are obsolete in modern Javanese, and are used instead for "capitalization" in modern orthography (see punctuation).
|ha (ꦲ)||na (ꦤ)||ca (ꦕ)||ra (ꦫ)||ka (ꦏ)|
|da (ꦢ)||ta (ꦠ)||sa (ꦱ)||wa (ꦮ)||la (ꦭ)|
|pa (ꦥ)||dha (ꦢ)||ja (ꦗ)||ya (ꦪ)||nya (ꦚ)|
|ma (ꦩ)||ga (ꦒ)||ba (ꦧ)||tha (ꦛ)||nga (ꦔ)|
Note that the syllable 'ha' can also be used as a zero consonant, used with vowel diactrics to form an independent vowel.
When a virama or a consonant-syllable cluster occurs in the middle of a sentence, pengkon (Javanese virama sign) is not used. Instead, the letter change into a subscript form called pasangan. Each base letter has a corresponding pasangan form with varied shape and placement, though they are generally written below the base line, with distinct shape compared to their base form. These pasangan may hold a maximum number of two conjoining diacritics to form a consonant cluster.
Some pasangan are conjoined with the base letter (in similar matter to vowel diactric suku) such as na, wa, and nya, and some are written in-line after the base letter, such as sa, pa, and ha. Pasangan ka, ta, and la only have distinct shape when are written without conjoining diacritics. When written with suku or pengkal for example, their shape reverts back to their base form but are still written under the base line. Letters such as ra and ya has exact pasangan form to their base form.
Consonant diacritics 
There are two kinds of consonant diacritics in Javanese writing, sound killers or syllable-final consonants (sandhangan panyigeging wanda), and syllable-medial consonants (sandhangan wyanjana).
- Panyangga are used particularly for the religious syllable Om.
- Pangkon nullifies the inherent vowel of a consonant at the end of sentence. If a null consonant occurs in the middle of a sentence, pasangan forms are used instead (see pasangan).
- The cakra form shown here is actually a ligature of an initial form which has become standard.
- Syllable-medial consonants may be joined with vowel diacritic suku.
Extended consonants 
There are nine murda letters , four mahaprana letters, and five special letters that does not fit into previous categories. Each have their corresponding pasangan, but they never became syllable-final consonants. Murda and mahaprana are used for "capital letters" in modern Javanese orthography, though the latter are used to a limited extent (see punctuation). Mahaprana roughly translates "to be read with deep breath", and originally represents distinct sounds used in old Javanese but are now obsolete. The five special letters has mixed usage, and will be detailed below.
|ꦋ||Nga lêlêt raswadi|
- Ra agung works similarly to Murda letters, in that it is used to write name of a respected persons and places. It is however, named agung not murda.
- Ka sasak are sometimes used to write q from Quran.
- Pa cêrêk replaces every ra + diacritic pepet
- Nga lêlêt replaces every la + diacritic pepet
- Nga lêlêt raswadi is used in Sundanese to write "leu"
Foreign transcribing 
Words borrowed from other languages such as Arabic or Malay are indicated by writing diacritic marks over similar sounding Javanese letters. On top of that, Javanese also uses special characters to write foreign names or words.
Basic vowels 
In Javanese, there are a total of nine vowels: /a/, /i/, /ɪ/, /e/, /ɛ/, /ə/, /o/, /ɔ/, /u/. However, only five vowel diacritics, known as sandhangan swara, are used because some diacritics can be used for two different vowels (/a/ and /ɔ/ are always inherent to the basic letters, /i/ and /ɪ/ represented by suku (ꦸ), /e/ and /ɛ/ represented by taling (ꦺ). Rules regarding the pronunciation and the context eliminate the need for a new symbol for every vowel by making the vowel predictable.
|wulu (ꦶ)||pepet (ꦼ)||suku (ꦸ)||taling (ꦺ)||taling tarung (ꦺꦴ)|
Rules regarding inherent vowels of basic characters:
- A basic character stands for a syllable that ends in the vowel /ɔ/ when the character is preceded by another character containing a sandhangan swara.
- A basic character stands for a syllable that ends in the vowel /a/ when the character is immediately followed by a character containing a sandhangan swara.
- The first basic character of a word normally has the /ɔ/ vowel, unless it precedes two other basic characters, in which case the first basic character has the /a/ vowel.
|Javanese script||Sound||Old orthography||New orthography||Indonesian orthography|
|(inherent)||/ɔ/||a (a-jejeg) or "Javanese-O"||o|
|taling (ꦺ)||/e/||e||é (é-jejeg)||e|
|pepet (ꦼ)||/ə/||ê||e (é-pepet)||e|
|wulu (ꦶ)||/i/||i (i-jejeg)||i|
|taling tarung (ꦺꦴ)||/o/||o (o-jejeg)||o|
|suku (ꦸ)||/u/||u (u-jejeg)||u|
Extended vowels 
There are many vowel combinations which was constructed using five basic vowels (ꦺ/taling, ꦼ/pepet, ꦶ/wulu, ꦸ/suku, ꦻ/dirga mure) and three long vowels (ꦴ/tarung, ꦷ/wulu melik, ꦹ/suku mendut). These vowels (sandhangan swara) are not standalone, but rather follows the syllables/basic letters. In addition to that, there are also several standalone vowels (aksara swara), which numbered seven (ꦄ, ꦅ, ꦆ, ꦈ, ꦌ, ꦍ, ꦎ), but can be combined with other sandhangan swara. The various dirga marks, which in Old Javanese represented long vowels, are used as colometric devices in Modern Javanese. They are not represented by macrons in romanization. For transcribing Sundanese word, another vowel was also added to the Unicode table, ꦵ/tarung. For Old Javanese, another standalone vowel was added to the Unicode table: ꦇ/I Kawi
The vowel /a/ is inherent in every basic letters, and the letter "ha" (ꦲ) often serves as a neutral seat for other vowels, in which case the 'h' is not transcribed. For example ꦲ can be transliterated as 'ha' or as 'a', and ꦲꦶ can be transliterated as 'hi' or as 'i'. Generally speaking, "ha" (ꦲ) in word-initial or vowel-medial position in a root word is romanized without the 'h'. Root word-final "ha" (ꦲ) followed by suffixal vowels, on the other hand, is always romanized with the 'h'. Meanwhile the standalone vowel /a/ (Javanese: Aksara swara A: ꦄ), is used as a neutral seat for other vowels that, when marked with the appropriate sign, can also be transliterated as i, u, etc. Thus ꦄꦶ is transliterated as 'i', and so forth.
The difference between sandhangan swara and aksara swara is that the first one is used to transcribe Javanese words, while the standalone vowel (aksara swara) is used to transcribe loanwords or names that starts with a vowel, or preceeded by other vowel. For example: anak (children) is written with sandhangan swara ꦲ (ꦲꦤꦏ꧀), never with ꦄ (ꦄꦤꦏ꧀), while loanwords such as abonemen, or names such as "Allah" are written with aksara swara ꦄ (ꦄꦧꦺꦴꦤꦼꦩꦺꦤ꧀ and ꦄꦭ꧀ꦭꦃ, respectively)
|Short vowels||Long vowels|
|Latin||Sandhangan swara||Aksara swara||Latin||Sandhangan swara||Aksara swara|
|e (old), é/è (new)||ꦲꦺ||ꦌ, ꦄꦺ||o||ꦲꦺꦴ||ꦎ, ꦄꦺꦴ|
|ê (old), e (new)||ꦲꦼ||ꦄꦼ||êê||ꦲꦼꦴ||ꦄꦼꦴ|
|i||ꦲꦶ||ꦆ (ꦅ), ꦄꦶ||ii ( /ī)||ꦲꦷ||ꦇ, ꦄꦷ|
|u||ꦲꦸ||ꦈ, ꦄꦸ||uu (ū)||ꦲꦹ||ꦈꦴ, ꦄꦹ|
|ai||ꦲꦻ||ꦍ, ꦄꦻ||au||ꦍꦴ, ꦄꦻꦴ, ꦄꦵ|
|1 ꧇꧑꧇||2 ꧇꧒꧇||3 ꧇꧓꧇||4 ꧇꧔꧇||5 ꧇꧕꧇||6 ꧇꧖꧇||7 ꧇꧗꧇||8 ꧇꧘꧇||9 ꧇꧙꧇||0 ꧇꧐꧇|
When writing numbers greater than 9, simply combine the above numbers, as one would using the Arabic numerals. For example, to write 21, simply write the characters ꧇꧒꧑꧇. Similarly, the number 90 would be the characters ꧇꧙꧐꧇. Some of the characters for the numbers are very similar to the characters for syllables, for example ꧒ (2) with ꦊ (nga lelet) and with ꦔ꧀ꦤ (ngna), ꧖ (6) with ꦌ (aksara E), ꧗ (7) with ꦭ (la), ꧘ (8) with ꦦ (pa murda), and ꧙ (9) with ꦪ (ya). Therefore, to avoid confusions, numbers that show up in Javanese texts are indicated by special 'numeral markers' called pada pangkat both before and after the number. Following the pattern: text - numeral marker - numbers - numeral marker - text. For example; Wednesday, 27 March 2013 would be written as:
ꦉꦧꦺꦴ꧇꧒꧗꧇ꦩꦫꦼꦠ꧀꧇꧒꧐꧑꧓꧇ (rebo 27 maret 2013)
In some cases, Arabic numerals are used alongside Javanese script, replacing the Javanese script numeral.
With the introduction of the new Javanese script (carakan script), different punctuation marks were also introduced. Punctuations can be divided into two categories: primary and special. Primary punctuation includes:
- 1) the comma “pada-lungsi”,
- 2) the period “pada-lingsa”,
- 4) to introduce a new sentence or paragraph “pada-bab”.
Two special rules apply to the usage of the comma, and the period.
1.The comma is not needed after a consonant-ending word that is represented by a pangku
2.The comma is used instead of the period after a consonant-ending word that is represented by a pangku
Special punctuation includes:
- 1) the “pada-luhur” to introduce a letter to a person of lower rank;
- 2) the “pada-madya” to introduce a letter to an equal; the “pada-handhap” to introduce a letter to a person of higher rank;
- 3) the “purwa-pada” to introduce a poem; the”madya-pada” to indicate a new song in a poem;
- 5) the "rerengan" which flanks the tittle;
The special punctuation originates from highly decorated keraton texts, which result in a relatively complex shaped compared to the former. Also, these punctuation are often ornamental, decorated according to the scribe's taste and ability, so various variants may be found in Javanese texts.
There are also two other punctuation which are not categorized into the two:
- 1) the "tirta tumesen" and "isen-isen";
- 2) and the "pada rangkep" or pangrangkep.
Tirta tumesen and isen-isen is used by scribes to indicate miswrotten letter or word, rather than crossing it. Though only used in handwriting, the two are included into the Unicode range for the purpose of rendering Javanese texts. Tirta tumesen is used in Yogyakarta, while isen-isen is used in Surakarta. For example, a scribe wants to write pada luhur, but miswrote pada wu..., a scribe from Yogyakarta would write:
In Surakarta, it would be:
Pada rangkep is essentially the Arabic numeral two (٢) used to indicate that the word before are read twice (rangkep). In shape, both Arabic number two (٢) and Javanese sign pada rangkep (ꧏ) are identical. It was made different to avoid bi-directional rendering, as Arabic is written right-to-left and Javanese left-to-right. Interestingly, this method of using number for repeated words survives in the Latin-based orthography for Indonesian using 2. It was used in the Soewandi Spelling System, but officially dropped in the Enhanced Indonesian Spelling System or EYD of 1972. However, it is now still common to use it in text message and social media, but not official documents and letters.
Javanese script has thirteen"capital" letters called the aksara murda that are used for the names of highly respected persons and places. It should be noted that exact number of murda characters is often different from one source to another, as some treated aksara mahaprana (letters for sounds that existed in Old Javanese, but rare and obsolete in modern Javanese) as murdha. Below are letters that can be considered as murda;
ꦟ ꦬ ꦑ ꦝ ꦡ ꦯ ꦦ ꦞ ꦙ ꦘ ꦓ ꦨ ꦜ
(from left to right: na, ra, ka, da, ta, sa, pa, dha, ja, nya, ga, ba, tha)
The first letter of the name is usually capitalized; however, all the letters could be capitalized if possible. Also, if an aksara murdha is not available for the first letter, the second letter is capitalized. If the second letter does not have an aksara murdha either, the third letter is capitalized, and so on. Note that the capital letters are not used to indicate the beginnings of sentences.
Letter Ordering 
The most common ordering of Javanese letters is to arrange it into a poem, forming a perfect pangram, as follows;
of which the line-by-line translation would be:
Hana caraka There (were) two messengers
data sawala (They) had animosity (among each other)
padha jayanya (They were) equally powerful (in fight)
maga bathanga Here are the corpses.
hana / ana = there were/was
caraka = messenger (actually, 'one who is loyal to and trusted by someone')
data = have/has
sawala = difference (regarding a matter)
padha = same, equal
jayanya = 'their power', 'jaya' could mean 'glory' as well
maga = 'here'
bathanga = corpses
This story was told in the myth of Aji Saka, a Javanese mythology that tell the story about the came of civilization to Java, brought by legendary first king named Java Aji Saka, and the mythical story of Javanese script origin.
The script can also be arranged phonetically according to standard Sanskrit. In this way, each letter has distinct sounds which are used to write Old Javanese. Modern Javanese has less sounds, particularly aspirated consonants, and thus some letters are omitted and others are used instead for capitalization (see punctuation). The arrangement is as follow;
Modern usage 
Modified usage in Sundanese language 
Javanese script was also used by some Sundanese people to write the Sundanese language, but the script was simplified and called Cacarakan instead. Cacarakan differs from Carakan by omitting the dha and tha, thus only 18 basic letters are used in Sundanese-Javanese script:
ha, na, ca, ra, ka, da, ta, sa, wa, la, pa, ja, ya, nya, ma, ga, ba, nga.
Similarities with the Balinese script 
The Javanese and Balinese scripts are essentially typographic variants, but they were assigned different codepoints in Unicode
|Javanese script||Balinese script|
Usage in other languages 
Javanese script is also used to transliterate Indonesian words and English words, as can be witnessed in public places, especially in Surakarta and its surrounding area. Since Javanese script is an oral script, words from either Indonesian or English origin are written as they were pronounced, not as they were written in Latin. For example, "Solo Grand Mall" transliterated as ꦱꦺꦴꦭꦺꦴꦒꦿꦺꦤ꧀ꦩꦭ꧀, which transliterates back as "solo gren mal" (pronounced /solo gren mɔl/)
Javanese script was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 2009 with the release of version 5.2.
The Unicode block for Javanese is U+A980–U+A9DF. There are 91 codepoints for Javanese script: 53 letters, 19 punctuations, 10 numbers, and 9 vowels, Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points:
Unicode.org chart (PDF)
A bilingual text in Portuguese and Javanese in Tamansari, Yogyakarta
Madurese in Javanese script
A street sign in Surakarta, written in both Latin and Javanese scripts
The Special Region of Yogyakarta emblem honors the Javanese script
Further reading 
There are very few items available in English about Javanese script; however, the following give some introduction:
- Gallop, Annabel Teh. Golden letters: writing traditions of Indonesia = Surat emas: budaya tulis di Indonesia (with Bernard Arps). London: British Library; Jakarta: Yayasan Lontar, c1991. ISBN 979-8083-06-7
- Pigeaud, Theodore G. Th. Javanese and Balinese manuscripts and some codices written in related idioms spoken in Java and Bali: descriptive catalogue, with examples of Javanese script, introductory chapters, a general index of names and subjects Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1975. ISBN 3-515-01964-2
See also 
- History of the alphabet
- Balinese script, a very similar script used in the neighbouring island of Bali
- Brahmic scripts
- Folk etymology relevant to Javanese etymology
- Campbell, George L. Compendium of the World's Languages. Vol. 1. New York: Routledge, 2000.
- Soemarmo, Marmo. "Javanese Script." Ohio Working Papers in Linguistics and Language Teaching 14.Winter (1995): 69-103.
- Daniels, Peter T and William Bright. The World's Writing Systems. Ed. Peter T Daniels and William Bright. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
- Javanese, Sundanese, and Madurese romanization table
- "Javanese Characters and Aji Saka". Joglosemar. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Javanese script|
- Hanacaraka Font & Resources (in Indonesian)
- Entry on Javanese at Omniglot.com -- A guide to writing systems
- Javanese script (hanacaraka) calligraphy service in the web archive
- Javanese Unicode font with SIL Graphite smart font technology
- JawaTeX :: Latex Based Javanese Script Transliterator
- Download Carakan_setup