Javanese script summary

Updated 3 April, 2018 • tags scriptnotes, javanese

This page provides basic information about the Javanese script. It is not authoritative, peer-reviewed information – these are just notes I have gathered or copied from various places as i learned. For character-specific details follow the links to the Javanese character notes.

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.

Note: There are currently difficulties in finding a workable Unicode font for Javanese. The Noto Sans Javanese font uses shapes that are over-simplified for some Javanese users, and the often recommended font, Tuladha Jejeg, is based on Graphite technology, and so only works on Firefox with Graphite rendering enabled. The default webfont for this page is the Noto font, but if you are using Firefox with Graphite enabled and download and install the Tuladha Jejeg font, you can switch to that font using the vertical blue bar, bottom right. (An attempt to package the Tuladha Jejeg font as a webfont was unsuccessful, as the rendering wasn't properly supported in that format.)

Sample (Javanese)

꧋ꦱ​ꦧꦼ​ꦤ꧀ꦲꦸ​ꦮꦺꦴꦁ​ꦏ​ꦭ​ꦲꦶ​ꦫ​ꦏꦺ​ꦏ​ꦤ꧀ꦛꦶ​ꦩꦂ​ꦢꦶ​ꦏ​ꦭ​ꦤ꧀ꦢꦂ​ꦧꦺ​ꦩꦂ​ꦠ​ꦧ​ꦠ꧀ꦭ​ꦤ꧀ꦲ​ꦏ꧀ꦲ​ꦏ꧀ꦏꦁ​ꦥ​ꦝ꧉​ꦏ​ꦧꦺꦃ​ꦥꦶ​ꦤ​ꦫꦶ​ꦔ​ꦤ꧀ꦲ​ꦏ​ꦭ꧀ꦭ​ꦤ꧀ꦏ​ꦭ꧀ꦧꦸ​ꦱꦂ​ꦠ​ꦏ​ꦲ​ꦗ​ꦧ꧀ꦥ​ꦱꦿ​ꦮꦸꦁ​ꦔ​ꦤ꧀ꦲꦁ​ꦒꦺꦴ​ꦤꦺ​ꦩꦼ​ꦩꦶ​ꦠꦿ​ꦤ꧀ꦱꦶ​ꦗꦶ​ꦭ​ꦤ꧀ꦱꦶ​ꦗꦶ​ꦤꦺ​ꦏ​ꦤ꧀ꦛꦶ​ꦗꦶ​ꦮꦺꦴ​ꦱꦸ​ꦩ​ꦢꦸ​ꦭꦸꦂ꧉

Note: ZWSP has been added between orthographic syllables in the above text in order to allow the text to wrap. The major browsers don't wrap it automatically.

Usage & history

From Scriptsource:

Javanese is Indonesia's oldest literary language, its literary history being traceable to the C4th. Since that time, it has been written in several different scripts - Pallava, Old Javanese, and an Arabic variant known as gundil script - before arriving at its present form in the C17th and 18th. The present Javanese script is a modern variant of Old Kawi, an ancient Brahmic script from which many scripts in the Indonesian archipelago are derived. It is the pre-colonial script of the Javanese language spoken on the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali and is used to write the Tengger and Osing languages, also spoken in Java and Bali. Historically it was also used to write the Bali language, which is now written largely in the Latin and Balinese scripts, and the Sunda language, which is now written in the Latin and Arabic scripts. The Javanese script is closely related to the Balinese script, although Javanese contains 4 consonant letters which are absent in the Balinese. ...

The first Javanese upright-style font was produced in the 1830s by the Dutch. Early in the C20th, two other cursive type fonts were also produced. Further development was halted abruptly during the second World War when the use of the Javanese script was prohibited under the Japanese occupation. Currently, there are no newspapers or magazines being printed in the Javanese script, although it is still taught in most elementary schools and some junior high schools in Javanese speaking areas.

From Wikipedia:

The Javanese script, natively known as Aksara Jawa (ꦲꦏ꧀ꦱꦫꦗꦮ) and Hanacaraka (ꦲꦤꦕꦫꦏ), is an abugida developed by the Javanese people to write several Austronesian languages spoken in Indonesia, primarily the Javanese language and an early form of Javanese called Kawi, as well as Sanskrit, an Indo-Aryan language used as a sacred language throughout Asia. The Javanese script is a descendant of the Brahmi script and therefore has many similarities with the modern scripts of South India and Southeast Asia. The Javanese script, along with the Balinese script, is considered the most elaborate and ornate among Brahmic scripts of Southeast Asia.

The script was widely used by the court scribes of Java and the Lesser Sunda Islands. Numerous efforts to standardize the script were made in the late 19th to early 20th-century, with the invention of the script's first metal type and the development of concise orthographic guidelines. However, further development was halted abruptly following World War II and especially during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies, in which its use was prohibited, and the script's use has since declined. Today, everyday use of the Javanese script has been largely supplanted by the Latin alphabet.

Key features

Javanese is an abugida, ie. consonants carry an inherent vowel sound that is overridden, where needed, using vowel signs. In Javanese, consonants carry an inherent vowel, which can be a or o. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features, taken from the Script Comparison Table.

Character lists

The Javanese script characters in Unicode 10.0 are in a single block:

The following links give information about characters used for languages associated with this script. The numbers in parentheses are for non-ASCII characters.

For character-specific details see Javanese character notes.

Consonants

The Javanese block has 39 consonant letters, which can be grouped according to 4 types.

Nglegéna
list all
kka, kɔ
qqa, qɔ
gɡa, gɔ
ngŋa, nɔ
cʧa, ʧɔ
jʤa, ʤɔ
nyɲa, ɲɔ
thʈa, ʈɔ
dhɖa, ɖɔ
tta, tɔ
dda, dɔ
nna, nɔ
ppa, pɔ
bba, bɔ
mma, mɔ
yja, jɔ
lla, lɔ
rra, rɔ
rra, rɔ
ssa, sɔ
wwa, wɔ
hh, a, ∅
Murda
list all
Kka, kɔ
Gɡa, gɔ
Cʧa, ʧɔ
NYɲa, ɲɔ
Tta, tɔ
Nna, nɔ
Ppa, pɔ
Bba, bɔ
Ssa, sɔ
Mahaprana
list all
Ssa, sɔ
Dda, dɔ
DHɖa, ɖɔ
Jʤa, ʤɔ
THʈa, ʈɔ
Vocalic
list all
re
le
leu

The basic (nglegéna) set includes two special letters: [U+A990 JAVANESE LETTER KA SASAK] for writing the Kawi language; and [U+A9AC JAVANESE LETTER RA AGUNG] which is not used in modern text, but was used historically by some writers to address royal figures.

There are also 7 combining characters used for syllable medial and final consonants.

Murda letters

Murda forms can be viewed as a kind of capital letter for proper nouns (not sentence initial letters), used as honorifics. They are used to replace an ordinary letter form in the first syllable of the name. However, not all letters have a murda form, so if there is no letter in the first syllable that has a murda form, one is used for the next syllable in the name that has one.

Highly respected names may be all 'capitalized' if the corresponding murda are available.

Mahaprana letters

Mahaprana forms were originally aspirated consonants used in Sanskrit and Kawi transliterations (mahaprana means aspirated). They are rarely, if ever, found in modern text.

Vocalic letters

These three characters are treated as vowels in other scripts, such as Balinese, but as consonants in Javanese. They represent the sounds , and , rather than a consonant plus inherent vowel, and take no vowel signs, eg. ꦊꦩꦃꦊꦩ꧀ꦧꦸꦠ꧀ lemah lembut gentle.d They do, however, have conjoint forms.

Consonant clusters

The absence of a vowel sound after a letter (ie. not involving medial or final consonant diacritics) is shown visually in the script in one of several ways:

Since words are not separated by spaces, this process also works across word boundaries.

In Unicode text, the catalyst for producing conjoined or subjoined clusters is the inclusion of an invisible ◌꧀ [U+A9C0 JAVANESE PANGKON​] between two letters.

In the following example, which can be transliterated as hak-hak-kang-pa-da, we see the combination k-h, which alters the form of the second consonant without subjoining, and k-k, which subjoins the second k with a slightly different shape.

ꦲꦏ꧀ꦲꦏ꧀ꦏꦁꦥꦝ

Subjoining and non-subjoining consonant clusters.

Note, however, that the combination ng-p near the end does not involve subjoining or shape changing, since the ng is expressed using the diacritic ◌ꦁ [U+A981 JAVANESE SIGN CECAK​].

Medial (wyanjana) consonants

Three combining characters represent medial consonants.

list all
re
yj
ꦿ.rr

These indicate that the consonant doesn't start a new syllable, eg. ꦥꦿꦩꦸꦏ pramuka scout, ꦏꦾꦲꦶꦏꦤ꧀ꦗꦼꦁ kyai kanjeng, ꦕꦕꦶꦁꦏꦽꦩꦶ cacing kremi.

Word-final (seisigeg) diacritics

Four syllable-final consonant sounds are represented using combining characters.

list all
mm
nŋ
rr
hh

Examples: ꦱꦼꦏꦺꦴꦭꦃ sekolah school, ꦥꦼꦫꦲꦸꦭꦪꦂ perahu layar sailboat, ꦥꦼꦠꦼꦁ peteng dark.

Representing foreign sounds

Javanese uses ◌꦳ [U+A9B3 JAVANESE SIGN CECAK TELU​] with a similar consonant to represent most foriegn sounds, particularly those from Arabic.

When consonants are subjoined there can be some ambiguity about which consonant the cecak telu applies to. For example, ꦏ꦳꧀ꦗ kza and ꦏ꧀ꦗ꦳ xja look identical.

Wikipedia has a set of Chinese sounds that are represented using some combining characters from a non-Javanese block.

Vowels

There are two sets of vowels, independent letters and combining vowel signs.

Inherent vowels

Each Javanese consonant carries an inherent vowel, unless it is explicitly modified or removed, or this is one of the four final consonants. There are two possible inherent vowel sounds: a and ɔ.

The choice of inherent vowel can depend on the speaker's dialect: speakers of Western Javanese dialects tend to pronounce the inherent vowel as a, while those of Eastern Javanese prefer ɔ.w

Wikipedia describes the following rules by Wewaton Sriwedari for determining the inherent vowel of a letter:w

Independent vowels

The normal way to represent independent vowels in Javanese is to combine a vowel sign with [U+A9B2 JAVANESE LETTER HA], eg. ꦲꦪꦸ ayu graceful.

The independent vowel letters are used in Javanese to distinguish proper nouns or foreign words from ordinary words, eg. compare ꦄꦪꦸ Ayu, a personal name, with the previous example.u

There are 8 independent vowel letters.

list all
aa
ii
ii
ii
uu
ee, ɛ
e
oo

Modern Javanese uses [U+A986 JAVANESE LETTER I], and if a long vowel is needed [U+A987 JAVANESE LETTER II]. For Kawi, however, use [U+A985 JAVANESE LETTER I KAWI] and [U+A986 JAVANESE LETTER I] for short and long, respectively.d

Long versions of u and o vowels are written using ◌ꦴ [U+A9B4 JAVANESE VOWEL SIGN TARUNG​], ie. ꦈꦴ and ꦎꦴ.

dependent vowel signs

The Javanese block has 9 combining characters used as vowel-signs.

list all
a
ii
uu
ee
eə
oo
i
u
ai

◌ꦴ [U+A9B4 JAVANESE VOWEL SIGN TARUNG​] is really a length mark, although it can be used alone to represent the long sound. Elsewhere it is used to lengthen not only dependent but also independent vowels, it is also used to produce a qualitative difference. See the description of two-part vowels below.

The last four items in the list above are not used in modern Javanese.

When a vowel-sign follows a subjoined consonant it appears above the stack.

ꦤ꧀ꦛꦶ

The word kanthi, where the i appears above the n.

It is perhaps worth noting also, that a two-part vowel associated with a consonant cluster involving a conjoined (rather than subjoined) second consonant appears before and after the whole cluster.

ꦩꦔꦤ꧀ꦱꦺꦴꦠꦺꦴ

The o surrounds the ns in mangan soto.

Two-part vowels

Unlike many other scripts, including Balinese, when vowels are created by adding multiple glyphs to a base character Javanese requires the user to type the parts separately. For example, the sound ko is represented by + ◌ꦺ + ◌ꦴ [U+A98F JAVANESE LETTER KA + U+A9BA JAVANESE VOWEL SIGN TALING​ + U+A9B4 JAVANESE VOWEL SIGN TARUNG​], eg.

ꦏꦺꦴ

The sound ko is written with three characters.

Two vowel sounds are produced using such combinations of vowel signs, however only the first in the list below is common in modern Javanese.

list all
ꦺꦴoo
◌ꦼꦵeuɤ

Vowel absence

As described in the consonant section above, suppressed inherent vowels are indicated by either (a) changing the shape and/or position of the following character, (b) using a medial consonant diacritic, or (c) using a word-final consonant diacritic.

Where no letter follows the consonant and the vowel is silent, for example at the end of a sentence or isolated word or before a number, a visible ◌꧀ [U+A9C0 JAVANESE PANGKON​] is used, eg.

ꦏꦿꦸꦥꦸꦏ꧀

A visible pangkon at the end of a word.

Occasionally ◌꧀ [U+A9C0 JAVANESE PANGKON​] may be visible in the middle of a word, eg. ꦧꦶꦱ꧀ꦠꦿꦤ꧀​ꦱ꧀ꦗꦏꦂꦠ bis transjakarta transjakarta bus. It's not clear from the Unicode Standard how to achieve this, however a zero width space works, and so does a zero width non-joiner.

Combining characters

The Javanese block contains 18 combining characters, of which 3 are medial consonants, 4 final consonants, and 9 vowel signs.

The other two are the pangkon, which works like a virama, and the cecak telu, which is used to create non-javanese sounds.

list all

All of these are described above.

Punctuation

The Javanese block contains 15 punctuation marks. They are all described in the Text layout section.

list all

Numbers

Digits

Javanese uses native digits, which are decimal-based and used in the same way as European numerals.

list all
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9

Several of the digits are identical to letters of the alphabet, so [U+A9C7 JAVANESE PADA PANGKAT] is often used around numbers, eg. :꧑꧕:ꦎꦏ꧀ꦠꦺꦴꦧꦼꦂ:꧒꧐꧑꧒: 15 oktober 2012.

ꦠꦶꦁꦏꦠ꧀꧇꧒꧕꧇

Pada pangkat used to indicate numbers.

Everson, on the other hand, says that [U+A9C8 JAVANESE PADA LINGSA] is used for this purpose, and gives the examples ꧈꧖꧈꧘꧈꧙꧈ 6 8 9 and ꧈꧒꧐꧐꧗꧈ 2007.e

Context-based rendering

Shaping

Glyph shaping is required for Javanese. One principle area is that of subjoined or postfixed consonants, which often interact typographically with the preceding consonant.

Not all fonts show the same shaping behaviours.

The following example, using the Tuladha Jejeg font, the three syllables, each containing a k-k stack, show how the font adapts the subjoined [U+A98F JAVANESE LETTER KA] at the bottom right according to what follows it.

ꦏꦿ ꦏ꧀ꦏꦿ  ꦏ꧀ꦏ ꦏ꧀ꦏꦾ

The following two syllables show how the Yogyakarta font changes the shape of ◌ꦿ [U+A9BF JAVANESE CONSONANT SIGN CAKRA​] to match the depth of the syllable. (The Tuladha Jejeg and Javanese Text fonts don't do this.)

ꦏꦿ ꦏ꧀ꦏꦿ

Another difference is the change in bottom right-hand shape of the subjoined k, which has provoked some controversy.

The next example, using the Javanese Text font, shows different renderings of the u vowel-sign after the second character in a consonant cluster.

ꦏ꧀ꦏꦸ  ꦏ꧀ꦯꦸ  ꦏ꧀ꦰꦸ  ꦏꦿꦸ

Note that the middle symbol contains only one u character. The similar-looking shape in the middle of the word is just part of the k-k conjoined shape.

Glyph positioning

Obviously the principle of subjoining consonants requires rules about positioning, and those rules need to be disregarded for combinations where the second character of a cluster is not subjoined (though it usually changes shape).

In the following example we see ka with cecak telu on the left. In the middle syllable cecak telu has shifted slightly to the left to make room for the other diacritic. In the right-hand syllable the cecak telu has both moved and reduced in size to fit with the other diacritic.

ꦏꦿ ꦏ꧀ꦏꦿ  ꦏ꧀ꦏ ꦏ꧀ꦏꦾ

The position and size of cecak telu depends on its neighbours.

Another example of the need for special positioning occurs when a vowel-sign is pronounced after a subjoined consonant but appears above the previous consonant in the stack (see the example earlier).

Text layout

An orthographic syllable in Javanese can be described as {C F} C {{R}Y} {V{A}} {Z}, where C is a consonant (or consonant + ◌꦳ [U+A9B3 JAVANESE SIGN CECAK TELU​]), F is ◌꧀ [U+A9C0 JAVANESE PANGKON​], R is◌ꦿ [U+A9BF JAVANESE CONSONANT SIGN CAKRA​], Y is ◌ꦾ [U+A9BE JAVANESE CONSONANT SIGN PENGKAL​], V is a vowel-sign, A is ◌ꦴ [U+A9B4 JAVANESE VOWEL SIGN TARUNG​], and Z is one of the syllable-final consonants.

Text direction

Javanese script is written horiztonally, left to right.

Text delimiters

Words are not separated by spaces.

For separators at the sentence level and below, the following are used, where the right column indicates approximate equivalences to Latin script.

comma [U+A9C8 JAVANESE PADA LINGSA]  This is not used after ◌꧀ [U+A9C0 JAVANESE PANGKON​].
colon [U+A9C7 JAVANESE PADA PANGKAT].
sentence [U+A9C9 JAVANESE PADA LUNGSI]. The character [U+A9C8 JAVANESE PADA LINGSA] represents a full stop when used after ◌꧀ [U+A9C0 JAVANESE PANGKON​]

For higher level divisions of the text the following are used.

paragraph Typically begins with [U+A9CB JAVANESE PADA ADEG ADEG].
section ditto
general divider [U+A9CA JAVANESE PADA ADEG] 
parentheses Typically a pair of [U+A9CA JAVANESE PADA ADEG] characters are used.
Alternatively, the pair of characters [U+A9CC JAVANESE PADA PISELEH] and [U+A9CD JAVANESE TURNED PADA PISELEH] may be used.

Titles may be marked by a pair of rerenggan characters, ie. ꧁...꧂. The glyphs for these characters may vary substantially.

Letters may begin with ꧋꧆꧋ if the writer doesn't want to indicate a distinction regarding age or rank between themselves and the reader. Otherwise, for more formal letters, they can choose one of three alternatives provided as single characters in the Javanese Unicode block. [U+A9C5 JAVANESE PADA LUHUR] is used for letters to people of greater age or higher rank, [U+A9C4 JAVANESE PADA MADYA] for people of equal age/rank, and [U+A9C3 JAVANESE PADA ANDAP] for people of lower age/rank. The difference between these three is the height of the swash to the far left.

The end of a letter can be signaled using ꧉꧆꧉. This combination may also involve just ꧆꧉, or may be repeated with spaces between to fill the linee, eg.
꧉ ꧆ ꧉ ꧆ ꧉ ꧆ ꧉

In poetry ꧅ꦧ꧀ꦖ꧅ or ꧅ꦧ꧀ꦕ꧅ (purwapada) introduces a poem; ꧅ꦟ꧀ꦢꦿ꧅ (madyapada) introduces a new song within a poem; and ꧅ꦆ꧅ (wasanapada) indicates the end of a poem.

Optionally, [U+A9C9 JAVANESE PADA LUNGSI] can be added to the above with some space around it. The spaces should be non-breaking, since there should be no line-breaks between the constituent partse, eg.
꧅ ꧉ ꦧ꧀ꦖ ꧉ ꧅

Highlighting

To draw attention to text Javanese may use a paired set of [U+A9CA JAVANESE PADA ADEG] characters around the relevant text.

The two characters [U+A9CC JAVANESE PADA PISELEH] and [U+A9CD JAVANESE TURNED PADA PISELEH] can be used similarly, or sometimes just [U+A9CC JAVANESE PADA PISELEH] is repeated.

Abbreviations

According to Everson [U+A9C8 JAVANESE PADA LINGSA] is used for acronyms, eg. ꧈ꦢꦺ꧈ꦲ꧈ꦌꦭ꧀꧈ DHL.

It is also used after initials in a name, eg. ꦫ꧈ꦩ꧈ꦯꦸꦭꦂꦠ R. M. Sularta.e

Correction marks

According to Wikipedia [U+A9DF JAVANESE PADA ISEN-ISEN] is used in handwriting to indicate a correction in Yogyakarta, eg. where a scribe wanted to write pada luhur but actually wrote pada wu.. they would use this mark as follows: ꦥꦢꦮꦸ꧟꧟꧟ꦭꦸꦲꦸꦂ.

In Yogyakarta they would use the character [U+A9DE JAVANESE PADA TIRTA TUMETES] instead.

Quotations

Javanese text may use [U+A9CA JAVANESE PADA ADEG] for quotation marks.

Alternatively, the pair of characters [U+A9CC JAVANESE PADA PISELEH] and [U+A9CD JAVANESE TURNED PADA PISELEH] may be used.

Repetition

A repeated syllable can be represented by [U+A9CF JAVANESE PANGRANGKEP], which is derived from the arabic-indic digit for 2, eg. ꦧꦸꦏꦸꧏ buku-buku books. It can be transcribed as buku2.

For 'ditto' marks in vertical lists, Javanese uses [U+A9C9 JAVANESE PADA LUNGSI] .

Line breaking

Like Tibetan, line breaking can occur after any full orthographic syllable. Hyphenation is not used.

In some printed material, when a new line begins with ◌ꦺ [U+A9BA JAVANESE VOWEL SIGN TALING], an additional spacing one is placed at the end of the previous line.

Justification

No information.

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

꧋ꦱ​ꦧꦼ​ꦤ꧀ꦲꦸ​ꦮꦺꦴꦁ​ꦏ​ꦭ​ꦪꦶꦂ​ꦫ​ꦏꦺ​ꦏ​ꦤ꧀ꦛꦶ​ꦩꦂ​ꦢꦶ​ꦏ​ꦭ​ꦤ꧀ꦢꦂ​ꦧꦺ​ꦩꦂ​ꦠ​ꦧ​ꦠ꧀ꦭ​ꦲ​ꦏ꧀ꦲ​ꦏ꧀ꦏꦁ​ꦥ​ꦝ꧉​ꦏ​ꦧꦺꦃ​ꦥꦶ​ꦤ​ꦫꦶꦁ​ꦔ​ꦤ꧀ꦲ​ꦏ​ꦭ꧀ꦭꦤ꧀ꦏ​ꦭ꧀ꦧꦸ​ꦱꦂ​ꦠ​ꦏ​ꦲ​ꦗ​ꦧ꧀ꦥ​ꦱꦿ​ꦮꦸꦁ​ꦔ​ꦤ꧀ꦲꦁ​ꦒꦺꦴ​ꦤ꧀ꦤꦺ​ꦩꦼ​ꦩꦶ​ꦠꦿ​ꦤ꧀ꦱꦶ​ꦗꦶ​ꦭ​ꦤ​ꦱꦶ​ꦗꦶ​ꦤꦺ​ꦏ​ꦤ꧀ꦛꦶ​ꦗꦶ​ꦮ​ꦱꦸ​ꦩ​ꦢꦸ​ꦭꦸꦂ

TBD

Other features to be investigated in this section include: baselines, emphasis & highlighting, text decoration, abbreviations & ellipsis, hyphens & dashes glyph controls quotations, line breaking, hyphenation, justification & alignment, first-letter styling, notes & footnotes, page layout

References

  1. [D] Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, The World's Writing Systems, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-507993-0, pp477-480
  2. [U] The Unicode Standard v10.0, Javanese, pp661-664.
  3. [W] Wikipedia, Javanese script.
  4. [T] Teguh Budi Sayoga, Proposal for encoding the Javanese Script in the UCS (A900-A97F).
  5. [E] Michael Everson, Proposal for encoding the Javanese script in the UCS.
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