Lontara Bilang-bilang script

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Script type
Time period
17th century – present
LanguagesBuginese language
Related scripts
Parent systems
Eastern Arabic numerals + i‘jām (consonants), Lontara (vowel diacritics and punctuation)
  • Bilang-bilang
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

Lontara Bilang-bilang is a cipher of the Lontara script, currently used for Buginese poetry. This script uses the Eastern Arabic numerals-inspired letterform to substitute the Lontara script, as a way to hide it to the Dutch at the time.[1] It was an adaptation to a similar ciphers of the Arabic script that has been used in South Asia around the 19th century.[2][3]


In Buginese literature, Lontara Bilang-bilang is sometimes used as a substitute to Lontara script in writing basa to bakke', a play-on-words, as well as élong maliung bettuanna, poetry with some hidden meaning using basa to bakke'. In this script, each base letter in standard Lontara are substituted with forms derived from Arabic script and its numerals, with standard, unchanged Lontara vowel diacritics attached to them.[3]

Cipher system[edit]

Lontara Bilang-Bilang substitutes Arabic letters with stylized numerals in accordance with Abjad numerals, a system that has been used in 19 AD in what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Bilang-Bilang, many letters for Arabic sounds not in Buginese are not used, while for sounds existing in Buginese and Malay, new letters are added with more stylization.[2] For example, ب have a numeral value of 2 and therefore is substituted by a stylized form of ٢, illustrated as follows:

Arabic Value Lontara
Lontara Latin Comments
ب ٢ 2
ba Stylization of ٢ with a short vertical line
ك ٢٠ 20
ka Stylization of ٢ with a medium vertical line
ر ٢٠٠ 200
ra Stylization of ٢ with a long vertical line

Jawi letters for Malay and Buginese sounds are formed with dots as equivalent for its Arabic counterpart. For example. ج (jim) uses the form of ٣, while چ (ca) uses the form of ٣ as well but with the addition of three dots, illustrated as follows:

Arab Value Lontara
Lontara Latin Comments
ج ٣ 3
ja Stylization of ٣
ca with three dots, analogous to چ
ك ٢٠ 20
ka Stylization of ٢

ga with one dot, analogous to ࢴ

Pre-nasal sounds are formed with the addition of a diacritic line, illustrated as follows:

Arab Value Lontara
Lontara Latin Comments
ك ٢٠ 20
ka Stylization of ٢ with a medium vertical line

ngka with a diacritic line
ر ٢٠٠ 200
ra Stylization of ٢ with a long vertical line

nra with a diacritic line

Letterform Table[edit]

Arabic Numerical
Lontara Latin Jawi Lontara
Lontara Latin Lontara
Lontara Latin
ا ١ 1
ب ٢ 2
ج ٣ 3
ja چ
د ۴ 4
ن ۵ 5
و ۶ 6
ع ٧ 7 ڠ
ف ٨ 8
ي ١٠ 10
ya ۑ
ك ٢٠ 20
ل ٣٠ 30
م ۴٠ 40
س ۶٠ 60
ر ٢٠٠ 200
ت ۴٠٠ 400

Lontara 'ha' "ᨖ" does not have a Bilang-bilang equivalent[4]


The Lontara Bilang-bilang Script has not yet been added into the Unicode standard as of version 14.0. A code range has been assigned for it in the Supplementary Multilingual Plane, but as of revision 14.0.0, no proposals has been made for assigning the letters.[5]

Example text[edit]

élong maliung bettuanna, A poetry in Lontara and Bilang-Bilang cited by Matthes (1883)[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lontara". Atlas of Endangered Alphabets. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  2. ^ a b Miller, Christopher (2011-03-11). "Indonesian and Philippine Scripts and extensions not yet encoded or proposed for encoding in Unicode". UC Berkeley Script Encoding Initiative. S2CID 676490. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ a b Tol, Roger (1992). "Fish food on a tree branch; Hidden meanings in Bugis poetry". Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde / Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia. 148 (1): 82–102. doi:10.1163/22134379-90003169. S2CID 191975859.
  4. ^ Ridwan Maulana. "Lontara Bilang-bilang". Omniglot. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  5. ^ Everson, Michael; McGowan, Rick; Whistler, Ken; S. Umamaheswaran, V. "Roadmap to the SMP". Unicode. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  6. ^ Matthes, B F (1883). Eenige proeven van Boegineesche en Makassaarsche Poëzie. Martinus Nijhoff.