Buginese script summary

Updated 13 January, 2018 • tags scriptnotes, buginese

This page provides basic information about the Buginese script. It is not authoritative, peer-reviewed information – these are just notes I have gathered or copied from various places as i learned. For similar information related to other scripts, see the Script comparison table.

Clicking on red text examples, or highlighting part of the sample text shows a list of characters, with links to more details. Click on the vertical blue bar (bottom right) to change font settings for the sample text.

Sample (Buginese)

ᨔᨗᨔᨗᨊᨗᨊ ᨑᨘᨄ ᨈᨕᨘ ᨑᨗ ᨍᨍᨗᨕᨂᨗ ᨑᨗᨒᨗᨊᨚᨕᨙ ᨊᨄᨘᨊᨕᨗ ᨆᨊᨙᨂᨗ ᨑᨗᨕᨔᨙᨂᨙ ᨕᨒᨙᨅᨗᨑᨙ᨞ ᨊᨄᨘᨊᨕᨗ ᨑᨗᨕᨔᨙᨂᨙ ᨕᨀᨒᨙ᨞ ᨊᨄᨘᨊᨕᨗ ᨑᨗᨕᨔᨙᨂᨙ ᨕᨈᨗ ᨆᨑᨙᨊᨗ ᨊ ᨔᨗᨅᨚᨒᨙ ᨅᨚᨒᨙᨊ ᨄᨉ ᨔᨗᨄᨀᨈᨕᨘ ᨄᨉ ᨆᨔᨒᨔᨘᨑᨙ᨞

Usage & history

From Scriptsource:

The Buginese (also known as the Lontara) script is used for writing the Bugis, Makasar, and Mandar languages of Sulawesi in Indonesia. It is related to the other Brahmic scripts indigenous to the Indonesian archipelago. ... Although in the wake of European colonisation the Buginese script has largely been replaced by the Latin script, it was reportedly in some use in 1983. Today the script is used in Bugis and Makasar for ceremonial purposes, such as weddings, and for writing personal documents such as letters and notes. It is also used for printing traditional Buginese literature. Nevertheless it is considered to be under increasing threat as a living script.

From Wikipedia:

The Lontara script is a Brahmic script traditionally used for the Bugis, Makassarese and Mandar languages of Sulawesi in Indonesia. It is also known as the [Buginese] script, as Lontara documents written in this language are the most numerous. It was largely replaced by the Latin alphabet during the period of Dutch colonization, though it is still used today to a limited extent. The term Lontara is derived from the Malay name for palmyra palm, lontar, whose leaves are traditionally used for manuscripts. In Buginese, this script is called urupu sulapa eppa which means "four-cornered letters", referencing the Bugis-Makasar belief of the four elements that shaped the universe: fire, water, air and earth.

Key features

The Buginese alphabet is also known as Lontara (ᨒᨚᨈᨑ). See the table to the right for a brief overview of features, taken from the Script Comparison Table.

Buginese is an abugida, ie. consonants carry an inherent vowel sound that is overridden, where needed, using vowel signs.

Buginese is a defective script, in that it doesn't represent consonant sounds at the end of a syllable, or indicate consonant clusters.

Character lists

The Buginese script characters in Unicode 10.0 are in the following block:

Follow these links for information about characters used by languages associated with this script. The numbers in parentheses refer to non-ASCII characters.

For character-specific details see Buginese character notes.


The Buginese block has 18 basic consonant letters, including one, [U+1A16 BUGINESE LETTER HA], introduced to represent an Arabic sound.

list all

Syllable-final consonant sounds (normally ʔ and ŋ) are not written. Similarly, geminated consonants sounds (which are distinctive and frequent in Buginese) are not written, eg. ᨒᨄ can be read as lapa lava or lappa joint.

These omissions can lead to ambiguities in the written text that are exploited for word games in Buginese.

Consonant clusters

There are 4 characters used to represent pre-nasalised consonant clusters in Buginese (but not Makassarese).

list all

Otherwise, according to the Unicode Standard, Buginese doesn't mark clusters. There is no virama equivalent.


The inherent vowel, a, is typically pronounced ɔ.

vowel signs

Vowel-signs are combining characters added after a base consonant to override the inherent vowel with a different vowel sound. The Buginese block has 5 vowel-signs.

list all

Independent vowels

Vowel sounds that are not preceded by a consonant are represented using [U+1A15 BUGINESE LETTER A] combined with a vowel-sign, eg. ənəng six.


The independent sound a is represented using [U+1A15 BUGINESE LETTER A] alone.

Vowel absence

Other than the characters representing consonant clusters mentioned above, Buginese has no way to indicate missing vowels between consonants or at the end of a word.

Context-based rendering


The only glyph shaping seems to be in connection with the iya ligature, + ◌ᨗ + ZWJ + [U+1A15 BUGINESE LETTER A + U+1A17 BUGINESE VOWEL SIGN I​ + U+200D ZERO WIDTH JOINER + U+1A10 BUGINESE LETTER YA]. The initial [U+1A15 BUGINESE LETTER A] is hidden in the ligature ᨕᨗ‍ᨐ.

Glyph positioning

The positioning of diacritics depends on the related base components, eg. compare ᨊᨗᨊ, ᨕᨗ‍ᨐ, and ᨐᨗ.

One vowel-sign,  ᨙ [U+1A19 BUGINESE VOWEL SIGN E​], is displayed to the left of the base consonant, although it is typed after the consonant, eg. ᨕᨙᨔᨙᨊᨙ eseneng Monday .

Odds and ends

A photo on Flickr shows a sign (associated with Makassar) with consonant clusters using what looks like  ᨘ [U+1A18 BUGINESE VOWEL SIGN U​] between the characters. There is also a syllable-final -r represented by [U+1A11 BUGINESE LETTER RA].

Still in the same picture is [U+1A04 BUGINESE LETTER PA], being used to represent the sound f.

Wikipedia mentions some recent proposals for diacritics to represent virama, anusvara, and glottal stop. The Unicode document repository has several documents proposing the addition of a virama character.

Everson also lists 6 punctuation marks, based on western semantics but with Buginese shapes, that are not in the Unicode block.

A number of proposals for extending the Buginese script to cover additional languages were raised in 2016.


Buginese has no native digits.

Text layout

Text direction

Buginese script is written in horizontally stacked lines. Characters run left to right inside a line.

In older journal text when space runs out on a page, scribes used to run the text into the margin and continue in bostrophedon arrangements.

Text delimiters

Words can be separated by spaces, or spaces can be used to separate units longer than words. In some texts words are not separated at all.

For separators at the sentence level and below, Buginese typically uses only one punctuation mark, [U+1A1E BUGINESE PALLAWA], which is equivalent to both comma and full stop in Latin transcriptions of Buginese.

The end of a section may be shown with [U+1A1F BUGINESE END OF SECTION].

Everson lists some additional punctuation marks, but these don't appear to be supported by Unicode.3


[U+1A1E BUGINESE PALLAWA] can also be used to indicate the doubling of a word or its root, according to Wikipedia. The Unicode Standard says that [U+A9CF JAVANESE PANGRANGKEP] may be used for this purpose.

Alternatively, the Unicode Standard says, repetition can be shown by duplication of the vowel sign, especially  ᨙ [U+1A19 BUGINESE VOWEL SIGN E​] and  ᨚ [U+1A1A BUGINESE VOWEL SIGN O​].

Line breaking

According to Everson, hyphenation can occur after any full orthographic syllable, but there are no details about how that works, or whether he actually means line-breaking, rather than hyphenation per-se.


No information.

Use the control below to see how your browser justifies the text sample here.

ᨊᨄᨘᨊᨕᨗ ᨑᨗᨕᨔᨙᨂᨙ ᨕᨀᨒᨙ᨞ ᨊᨄᨘᨊᨕᨗ ᨑᨗᨕᨔᨙᨂᨙ ᨕᨈᨗ ᨆᨑᨙᨊᨗ ᨊ ᨔᨗᨅᨚᨒᨙ ᨅᨚᨒᨙᨊ ᨄᨉ ᨔᨗᨄᨀᨈᨕᨘ ᨄᨉ ᨆᨔᨒᨔᨘᨑᨙ᨞


  1. [Unicode] The Unicode Standard v10.0, Buginese, pp663-664.
  2. Wikipedia, Lontara alphabet.
  3. [Everson] Michael Everson, Revised final proposal for encoding the Lontara (Buginese) script in the UCS.
  4. Anshuman Pandey, Representing Sumbawa in Unicode
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