Bugis (draft)

Updated 16 April, 2022

This page brings together basic information about the Buginese script and its use for the Buginese/Bugis language. It aims to provide a brief, descriptive summary of the modern, printed orthography and typographic features, and to advise how to write Buginese using Unicode.


Select part of this sample text to show a list of characters, with links to more details. Source
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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

The Buginese or Lontara script was traditionally used to write the Bugis, Makassarese and Mandar languages of Sulawesi in Indonesia. During the period of Dutch colonisation, it was largely replaced by the Latin alphabet, and is now considered to be endangered. However, it still persists for ceremonial purposes, such as weddings, and for writing personal documents such as letters and notes. There is also some use for printing traditional Buginese literature.

ᨒᨚᨈᨑ lotr Lontara

The script is originally derived from the Brahmi script, but has evolved considerably along similar lines to other scripts in the Indonesian archipelago. Wikipedia relates that 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."

Sources: Scriptsource, Wikipedia.

Basic features

The Buginese script, also known as Lontara (ᨒᨚᨈᨑ), is an abugida. Consonants carry an inherent vowel which can be modified by appending vowel-signs to the consonant. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features for the modern Buginese orthography.

Modern Buginese runs left to right in horizontally stacked lines.

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.

Buginese has 18 basic consonants, but is a defective script, meaning that it doesn't represent all the sounds of the spoken language.

With the exception of prenasalised onsets, the no consonant clusters or gemination are indicated by the Buginese orthography.

Single code points are, however, provided for 4 syllable-initial prenasalised clusters.

Syllable-final consonant sounds are also not written.

The Buginese orthography has an inherent vowel, and represents vowels using 5 vowel-signs (including 1 prescript). All vowel-signs are combining marks, and are stored after the base character.

Standalone vowel sounds are written using vowel-signs applied to [U+1A15 BUGINESE LETTER A].

There are no composite vowels, but repetition can be shown by duplication of the vowel sign,

There are no native numbers.

Character index



Basic consonants


Prenasalised consonants




Combining marks







Items to show in lists


Click on the sounds to reveal locations in this document where they are mentioned.

Phones in a lighter colour are non-native or allophones. Source Wikipedia.

Vowel sounds

i u e o ə ə a

There's something odd here and later about a vs ə. Need to figure out which is right.

Consonant sounds

labial dental alveolar post-
palatal velar glottal
stops p b t d     c ɟ k ɡ ʔ
pre-nasalised ᵐp       ⁿc ᵑk  
fricatives     s       h
nasals m   n   ɲ ŋ
approximants w   l   j  
trills/flaps     r  
pre-nasalised     ⁿr  


Vowel sounds to characters

This section maps Bugis vowel sounds to common graphemes in the Buginese orthography, grouped by dependant ( d ), or standalone ( s ) types. Click on a grapheme to find other mentions on this page (links appear at the bottom of the page). Click on the character name to see examples and for detailed descriptions of the character(s) shown.


Inherent vowel

Inherent vowel

a following a consonant is not written, but is seen as an inherent part of the consonant letter, so ka is written by simply using the consonant letter [U+1A00 BUGINESE LETTER KA].

Vowel signs

Non-inherent vowel sounds that follow a consonant can be represented using vowel-signs, eg. ki is written ᨀᨗ [U+1A00 BUGINESE LETTER KA + U+1A17 BUGINESE VOWEL SIGN I].

An orthography that uses vowel-signs is different from one that uses simple diacritics or letters for vowels in that the vowel-signs are generally attached to the syllable, rather than just applied to the letter of the immediately preceding consonant. This means that pre-base vowel-signs and the left glyph of circumgraphs appear before a whole consonant cluster if the cluster is rendered as a conjunct (see prescript_vowels).

Buginese vowel-signs are all combining characters. A single character is used per base consonant. All vowel-signs are typed and stored after the base consonant, whether or not they precede it when displayed. The font takes care of the glyph positioning.

Two of the vowel-signs are spacing marks, meaning that they consume horizontal space when added to a base consonant.

Combining marks used for vowels

Buginese uses the following dedicated combining marks for vowels. They may be used on their own, or in combination with others (see composite_vowels).


Pre-base vowel-sign

One vowel-sign appears to the left of the base consonant letter or cluster, eg. ᨀᨙ ke.

This is a combining mark that is always stored after the base consonant. The font places the glyph before the base consonant.

The pre-base e vowel-sign appears to the left of the base character after which it is pronounced in the word ᨕᨔᨙ.

Because a vowel-sign is associated with a syllable, rather than the immediately preceding consonant, the vowel-sign doesn't need to split letters that represent pre-nasalised consonants (see clusters), eg. ᨋᨙ nre

Standalone vowels


Buginese uses [U+1A15 BUGINESE LETTER A] to represent the sound a when there is no preceding consonant.

Other syllable-initial vowel sounds are written using the same character with vowel-signs attached.

The word ənəng six begins with BUGINESE LETTER A supporting a standalone ə vowel.

Vowel absence

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


Consonant sounds to characters

This section maps Bugis consonant sounds to common graphemes in the Buginese orthography. Click on a grapheme to find other mentions on this page (links appear at the bottom of the page). Click on the character name to see examples and for detailed descriptions of the character(s) shown.



Occurs in syllable-final position, but not written.






Not written when syllable-final.


Basic consonants


[U+1A16 BUGINESE LETTER HA] was introduced to represent an Arabic sound.

Geminated consonants

Similarly, geminated consonants sounds (which are distinctive and frequent in Buginese) are not written, eg. the following sequence can be read as lapa lava or lappa joint ᨒᨄ lp

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

Onset consonants


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

Final consonants

Syllable-final consonant sounds (normally ʔ and ŋ) are not written, eg. the final consonant sound is not written at the end of ᨕᨙᨔᨙᨊᨙ

Consonant clusters

Other than the prenasalised onsets mentioned just above, Buginese doesn't mark clusters.u There is no virama-like character.


Buginese has no native digits.

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.

Text direction

Buginese runs left to right in horizontally stacked lines.

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.

Show default bidi_class properties for characters in the Buginese orthography described here.

Glyph shaping & positioning

This section brings together information about the following topics: writing styles; cursive text; context-based shaping; context-based positioning; baselines, line height, etc.; font styles; case & other character transforms.

You can experiment with examples using the Buginese character app.

Buginese text is not cursive (ie. joined up like Arabic).

The orthography has no case distinction, and no special transforms are needed to convert between characters.

Context-based shaping & positioning

The only glyph shaping seems to be in connection with the iya ligature, ᨕᨗ‍ᨐ [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

The positioning of diacritics depends on the related base components, eg. compare ᨊᨗᨊ nin ninᨕᨗ‍ᨐ ǝ̣i‍y iya ᨐᨗ yi yi

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

Font styles


Text segmentation

Grapheme boundaries


Word boundaries

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.

Punctuation & inline features

Phrase & section boundaries


U+0020 SPACE



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.e

Parentheses & brackets






Other inline ranges


Text spacing


Abbreviation, ellipsis & repetition


[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].

Inline notes & annotations


Other punctuation


Line & paragraph layout

Line breaking & hyphenation


Show (default) line-breaking properties for characters in the modern Buginese orthography.


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.

Text alignment & justification


Counters, lists, etc.


Styling initials


Page & book layout

This section is for any features that are specific to Buginese and that relate to the following topics: general page layout & progression; grids & tables; notes, footnotes, etc; forms & user interaction; page numbering, running headers, etc.