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Sundanese alphabet

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Sundanese alphabet

Old Sundanese script

Sundanese script (Aksara Sunda, ) is a writing system which is used by the Sundanese people. It is built based on Old Sundanese script (Aksara Sunda Kuno) which was used by the ancient Sundanese between the 14th and 18th centuries.

History and standardization

Since Sundanese people have utilized many different scripts, there were several requirements considered in the standardization of the Sundanese script for modern usage: (a) a script that can record Sundanese language; (b) period of usage; (c) area of usage; (d) simplicity; (e) shows Sundanese identity.

The government of West Java Province has announced Peraturan Daerah (Local Regulation) no. 6 1996 about the Sundanese language, literature and script. The regulation was motivated by Keputusan Presiden (President's Decision) no. 082/B/1991, 24 July 1991.

As follow up to the local regulation, on Tuesday, 21 October 1997 in the main hall of Japanese Language Study Centre, Universitas Padjadjaran, Jatinangor; a seminar entitled "Lokakarya Aksara Sunda", in cooperation with the government of West Java Province and the Faculty of Literature Padjadjaran University, was held and attended by delegations from local communities and cities in West Java. Several discussion results were achieved:

  1. Historical facts from 5th century until now have shown that there were seven scripts used in the West Javanese area: Pallawa, Pranagari, Sunda Kuno (Old Sundanese), Javanese (Carakan), Arabic (Pegon), Cacarakan, and Latin, with the following timeline:
  2. "Sundanese Script" shall fulfill the following criteria: "Sundanese Script is an orthographical system created by the people of West Java which include script and writing system for writing Sundanese language." (Article 1.k of Local Government Regulation (Perda) no. 6 1996)
  3. From the basic requirements: simplicity, timeline, area of usage, usage (to write Sundanese), law (President's Decision no. 082/B/1991 24 July 1991 and Perda no. 6 1996), percentage of Sundanese people creativity, it can be concluded that the suitable script fulfilling those requirements is the Aksara Sunda Kuno (Old Sundanese script). And now it is also agreed upon scholars that the script can simply be called Aksara Sunda (Sundanese script).
  4. Since there were several variants in writing due to materials (stone, metal, skin, leaves, knives, ink, pen, hammer), timeline, and techniques, there shall be another criteria to choose for modern usage. And, considering the completeness and practicality, the variant found in soft-material-documents shall be used for modern usage.
  5. There was a tendency to name Cacarakan script as Sundanese script by some people before. However, it can be traced back that the earliest source was a book written by G. J. Grashuis, "Handleiding voor Aanleren van het Soendaneesch Letterschrift" (Learning Sundanese Script) in year 1860. The book taught to write "Sundanese Script" but using "Cacarakan". The Cacarakan script itself only contains around 10% of innovation by Sundanese people, especially by reducing and simplifying the sounds in Javanese (Carakan) to suit Sundanese language (tongue).
  6. From the cultural point of view, Sundanese script is one part of Sundanese civilization and culture. Therefore, (re)spreading and (re)utilizing Sundanese script shall integrate with the task to maintain and conserve Sundanese culture as a whole. Thus, it will have broader scope as wide as the scope of the people itself.
  7. Re-spreading and re-utilizing Sundanese script shall be done in several steps since it was not well known by the community within the last three centuries. These steps are:
  8. Tahap Pawanohan (Introduction)
  9. Tahap Palomaan (Utilizing)
  10. Tahap Pangagulan (Pride)
  11. Tahap Pamibandaan (Ownership)
  12. Next, the existence and function of Sundanese Script in the social and cultural life of West Javanese people in modern life is supported by the West Javanese Governor's Decision no. 434/SK.614-Dis.PK/99 about "Standardization of Sundanese Script", Local Government's Regulation no. 5 2003 about "Conservation of Local Language, Literature, and Script", and Governor's Decision no. 3 2004.


    The standardized script has 32 basic characters, consists of 7 (seven) aksara Swara (independent vowels): a, é, i, o, u, e, and eu, and 23 aksara Ngalagena (consonants with vowel a): ka-ga-nga, ca-ja-nya, ta-da-na, pa-ba-ma, ya-ra-la, wa-sa-ha, fa-va-qa-xa-za.

    The additional five sounds to the Ngalagena characters were added to fulfill the purpose of Sundanese script as tool for recording the development of Sundanese language, especially by absorption of foreign words and sounds. However, the glyphs for the new characters are not new, but reusing several variants in old Sundanese script, for example: the glyphs for fa and va are variants of Old Sundanese pa, the glyphs for qa and xa are variants of Old Sundanese ka, and the glyph for za is a variant of Old Sundanese ja.

    There are two non-standard sounds kha and sya for writing foreign Arabic consonants 'خ' and 'ش'. These are considered non-standard because their usage only supported by few Sundanese people.

    There are also rarangkéns or attachments for removing, modifying, or adding vowel or consonant sound to the base characters. 13 rarangkéns based on the position to the base can be categorized into three groups: (1) five rarangkéns above the base characters, (2) three rarangkéns below the base characters, and (3) five rarangkéns inline the base characters. In addition, there are glyphs for number characters, from zero to nine.

    Graphically, Ngalagena characters including rarangkéns have angle 45° – 75°. In general, the dimension ratio (height:width) is 4:4, except for the Ngalagena character ra (4:3), ba and nya (4:6), and the Swara character i (4:3). Rarangkéns have dimension ratio 2:2, except for panyecek (1:1), panglayar (4:2), panyakra (2:4), pamaéh (4:2) and pamingkal (2:4 bottom-side, 3:2 right-side). Numbers have ratio 4:4, except for number 4 and 5 (4:3).

    Aksara Swara (ᮃᮊ᮪ᮞᮛ ᮞ᮪ᮝᮛ)

    Graphical representation
    = a = é = i = o
    = u = e = eu

    Aksara Ngalagena (ᮃᮊ᮪ᮞᮛ ᮍᮜᮌᮨᮔ)

    Graphical representation

    Aksara Ngalagena from Sundanese language

    = ka = ga = nga
    = ca = ja = nya
    = ta = da = na
    = pa = ba = ma
    = ya = ra = la
    = wa = sa = ha

    Aksara Ngalagena for writing foreign words

    = fa = qa = va = xa = za
    = kha = sya

    Rarangkéns (ᮛᮛᮀᮊᮨᮔ᮪)

    Based on their location to the base glyph, 14 rarangkén can be categorized as:

    • rarangkén above the base glyph = 5 kinds
    • rarangkén below the base glyph = 2 kinds
    • rarangkén inline the base glyph = 6 kinds
    a. Rarangkéns above the base glyph
    °ᮤ panghulu, modifies Ngalagena vowel /a/ to /i/. Example: = ka → ᮊᮤ = ki.
    °ᮨ pamepet, modifies Ngalagena vowel /a/ to /e/. Example: = ka → ᮊᮨ = ke.
    °ᮩ paneuleung, modifies Ngalagena vowel /a/ to /eu/. Example: = ka → ᮊᮩ = keu.
    °ᮁ panglayar, adds final consonant sound /+r/ to the base sound. Example: = ka → ᮊᮁ = kar.
    °ᮀ panyecek, adds final consonant sound /+ng/ to the base sound. Example: = ka → ᮊᮀ = kang.
    b. Rarangkéns below the base glyph
    °ᮥ panyuku, modifies Ngalagena vowel /a/ to /u/. Example: = ka → ᮊᮥ = ku.
    °ᮢ panyakra, inserts consonant sound /+r/ to the base sound. Ending vowel can be modified with different vocalization rarangkén. Example: = ka → ᮊᮢ = kra.
    °ᮣ panyiku, inserts consonant sound /+l/ to the base sound. Ending vowel can be modified with different vocalization rarangkén. Example: = ka → ᮊᮣ = kla.

    c. Rarangkéns inline the base glyph

    ᮦ° panéléng, modifies Ngalagena vowel /a/ to /é/. Example: = ka → ᮊᮦ = ké.
    °ᮧ panolong, modifies Ngalagena vowel /a/ to /o/. Example: = ka → ᮊᮧ = ko.
    °ᮡ pamingkal, inserts consonant sound /+y/ to the base sound. Ending vowel can be modified with different vocalization rarangkén. Example: = ka → ᮊᮡ = kya.
    °ᮂ pangwisad, adds final consonant sound /+h/ to the base sound. Example: = ka → ᮊᮂ = kah.
    °᮪ patén or pamaéh, removes vowel sound of the base sound. Example: = ka → ᮊ᮪ = k.

    Numbers (ᮃᮀᮊ ᮞᮥᮔ᮪ᮓ)

    Graphical representation
    = 1 = 2 = 3
    = 4 = 5 = 6
    = 7 = 8 = 9
    = 0

    In texts, numbers are written surrounded with dual pipe sign | ... |.

    Example: |᮲᮰᮱᮵| = 2015

    Punctuation marks

    For modern use, Latin punctuations are used. Such punctuations are: comma, dot, semicolon, colon, exclamation mark, question mark, quotes, parenthesis, bracket etc.

    Writing in Pasangan (Pairs)

    Simple words or sentences can be written directly, for example by arranging Ngalagena letters which represent the sounds. However, in certain words, compound consonants can be found. Then, two ways of writing can be used: (1) using pamaéh, or (2) using pasangan (pairs).

    The use of pamaéh is one way to write Sundanese script at basic stage. Another way, the pasangan, is normally used in order to avoid the use of pamaéh in the middle of words, as well as to save writing space. Pasangan is constructed by attaching second Ngalagena letter to the first one, thus eliminate the /a/ voice of the first Ngalagena.


    Sundanese script was added to the Unicode Standard in April, 2008 with the release of version 5.1. In version 6.3, the support of pasangan and some characters from Old Sundanese script were added.


    The Unicode block for Sundanese is U+1B80–U+1BBF. The Unicode block for Sundanese Supplement is U+1CC0–U+1CCF.

    See also


    • Sundanese Script Unicode Support
    • Sundanese - Latin Online Transliteration and Sundanese Unicode Font
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