Today we are going to learn 5 characters (surat), namely ba, pa, na, ga, and la, and the pangolat (a diacritic that is used to suppress the inherent vowel that otherwise occurs with every consonant letter).
In this course reference will be made to ‘characters’, ‘letters’, or sometimes we will also use the Indonesian term, which is identical to the Sanskrit term, ‘aksara’, or the native Batak term ‘surat’. There is no difference between those terms.
The aksara (character or letter) /ba/ looks like an oval: ᯆ. Sometimes there is an inundation at the bottom ᯅ, but never in Karo Batak manuscripts.
The letter /pa/ consists of a simple horizontal line: ᯇ. Sometimes both ends slightly curve downwards. In Simalungun the shape is wavy: ᯈ.
The character /na/ is an oval with a horizontal line on top of it. The line is as long as the letter, and in a lot of cases the line even extends to the left: ᯉ. The Shape of this character is the same in all languages. Occasionally we find, predominantly in Mandailing Batak manuscripts, the variant ᯊ. This shape is almost exactly the same as the letter /na/ in the Malayu script of Sumatra and the Old Javanese script. Hence this letter is called the “ancient Na”
The letter /ga/ has a very simple shape: ᯎ. The shape differs slightly in Simalungun where there is a tendency to separate the lines: ᯏ.
The aksara /la/ resembles a flipped /ga/. The shape is exactly the same, only facing left and not right: ᯞ. In Simalungun the shape is ᯟ.
The five characters that you have learned can be combined to form words: the word gana , for example, is written by combining akasara /ga/ and /na/: ᯎᯉ.
To eliminate the inherent [a] sound, we use a diacritic sign, which is called pangolat . If we want to write the word balbal , the inherent [a] of the character /la/ can be eliminated using the pangolat, which has the shape ᯲ or ᯳. The latter form can be found in all regions, but the ᯲ form is not commonly found in Karo and Pakpak manuscripts.
Thus the word balbal must be written ᯅᯞ᯲ᯅᯞ᯲.
Note: The characters /na/ and /ga/ may not be combined to form the sound ŋ because there is a special sign for [ŋ].
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