The Javanese script, natively known as Aksara Jawa (
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 Javanese Latin alphabet.
There are a total of 53 letters in the Javanese script, but the number of represented phonemes (distinct sounds) varies accordingly to the language being written. Each letter represents a syllable, with an inherent vowel /a/ or /ɔ/, which changes depending on the diacritics around the letter. Each consonant has a conjunct form called pasangan (“pair”), which nullifies the inherent vowel of the previous syllable. In the word aksara for example, the inherent vowel of the letter ka is nullified by the use of pasangan in the following letter.
Punctuation includes the comma, period, colon, and quotation marks, as well as several decorative marks indicating poetic chapter and denoting rank in correspondence. Text is written from left to right and without word boundaries (Scriptio continua).
Many of the letters are constructed from visually similar components, most notably n-shaped 'hills' and u-shaped 'valleys', arranged in different sequences. There are only a few components unique to certain characters and even fewer letters that are truly unique, resulting in a very uniform-looking script.
The Javanese and Balinese alphabets are both modern variants of the Kawi script, a Brahmic script developed in Java around the ninth century. It was widely used in religious literature written in palm-leaf manuscripts called lontar. Over the Hindu-Buddhist period the letter forms changed into Javanese, and by the 17th century, the script was identifiable as in its modern form.
The Javanese script was mainly employed by court scribes centered in Surakarta and Yogyakarta, but the use was widespread among various courts of Java and the Lesser Sunda Islands. They are used to write historical accounts (babad), stories (serat), ancient verses (kakawin), and divination guides (primbon) among many others, with the most popular being copied and rewritten over the centuries.
The first Javanese metal type font was produced in the 1830s by the Dutch. Two other cursive type fonts were also produced in the early 20th-century. In 1926, an academic workshop in Sriwedari, Surakarta issued Wewaton Sriwedari or the "Sriwedari Resolve" as the first standard for Javanese spelling and orthography. Since then, numerous guidelines on Javanese orthography have been published.
However, further development was halted abruptly during the second World War when the use of the Javanese script was prohibited during the Japanese occupation. Currently, there are no newspapers or magazines being printed in the Javanese script and it is mainly used for decorative or scholarly purposes. Everyday use of the script has been largely replaced by the Latin alphabet. As a preservation effort, the Indonesian government prescribed most elementary and junior-high schools in Javanese speaking areas to teach the script as a compulsory subject. Its use is also encouraged by the Central Javanese government in road signs and public signage alongside Indonesian as administered in the 2012 local legislation.
A single letter in the Javanese script is called an aksara (ꦲꦏ꧀ꦱꦫ), which stands for a syllable with an inherent vowel of /a/ or /ɔ/ depending on the letter's position related to other letters. It can also 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/. Rules determining the inherent vowel of a letter are described in Wewaton Sriwedari as follows:
There are a total of 53 letters in the Javanese script, but the number of represented phonemes vary accordingly to the language being written. For example, transcription of Sanskrit uses 33 consonants and 14 vowels, while the modern orthography (based on the Javanese language) uses 20 consonants and 5 vowels. The other letters have lost their original distinct pronunciations and are used instead for honorific purposes.
Murda are similar to capital letters, but they are not used at the beginning of a sentence. They are used as honorifics in the first syllable of a proper name, usually that of a respected person or a place. Not all nglegéna letters have a murda form, and if a murda letter is not available for a name's first syllable, the second letter is capitalized. If the second letter does not have a murda either, the third letter is capitalized, and so on. Highly respected names may be all capitalized if the corresponding murda are available.
Mahaprana translates to "aspirated". They were originally aspirated consonants used in Sanskrit and Kawi transliterations. However, their occurrence is rare. Their proper usage in modern orthography is otherwise unknown, as there are no aspirated consonants in modern Javanese, and they are often omitted from books discussing the script.
Swara are used to differentiate proper names in a similar matter to murda. For example, the adjective ayu (graceful) is written with the syllable ha (ꦲꦪꦸ) while the personal name Ayu is written with swara instead (ꦄꦪꦸ). Swara are also used for words of foreign origin. The element argon for example, is written with swara.
Pasangan is a counterpart of aksara, usually in subscript form, that eliminates the inherent vowel of the attaching syllable. It is used for consonant clusters or closed syllables that occur in the middle of a sentence. For example, nda is made by attaching pasangan da to the syllable na. In the chart below, an initial consonant ka (ꦏ) is used to illustrate the pasangan form of the following consonant.
Swara don't have a pasangan. However, the letter can be sub-scripted in similar manner to disambiguate proper names.
The pasangan ra ( ꧀ꦫ) and ya ( ꧀ꦪ) are used when the aforementioned letters belong to a separate word or syllable. If the sound /r/ and /j/ belong to the consonant cluster of the same word or syllable, then the sandhangan cakra ( ꦿ) and pengkal ( ꦾ) are used instead.
Due to the loss of their original pronunciation or to accommodate foreign loan words, there are several aksara that are re-categorized and added in the modern repertoire. Each of these additional aksara has a pasangan, but they are devoid of murda or mahaprana case. They are as follows:
Diacritics or dependent signs are called sandhangan (ꦱꦟ꧀ꦝꦁꦔꦤ꧀). They are as follow:
When writing numbers greater than 9, the above numbers are simply combined as one would do using the Arabic numerals. For example, 21 is written by combining the numeral 2 and 1 as so; ꧒꧑. Similarly, the number 90 would be the ꧙꧐.
Most of the numbers are similar to the syllable characters. To avoid confusion, numbers that show up in Javanese texts are indicated by "numeral indicators" called pada pangkat, written both before and after the number, following the pattern: text - indicator - numbers - indicator - text. For example; Tuesday, 19 March 2013 would be written as ꦱꦼꦭꦱ꧇꧑꧙꧇ꦩꦉꦠ꧀꧇꧒꧐꧑꧓꧇ (selasa 19 maret 2013).
There are two special marks to indicate error in writing, ꧞ pada tirta tumétés and ꧟ pada isèn-isèn. Though only used in handwriting, the two are included in the Unicode range for the purpose of rendering Javanese texts. Tirta tumétés is used in Yogyakarta, while isèn-isèn is used in Surakarta. For example, a scribe wants to write pada luhur, but wrote pada wu ..., a scribe from Yogyakarta would write:
Javanese letters are commonly arranged in the hanacaraka perfect pangram sequence, as follows:
There (were) two messengers. (They) had animosity (among each other). (They were) equally powerful (in fight). Here are the corpses.
Javanese script have been used in writing Sanskrit and Old Javanese languages in classical literature. The orthography in the writing is influenced by Shiksha. There are some characters that only found in classical literatures and not used frequently in modern writing. These characters are usually used for writing loanword from Sanskrit.
Javanese script is used to write Sundanese language. The script was modified and called cacarakan instead. A difference can also be seen in the simplification of the vowel /o/ into (ꦵ).
Other difference between Sundanese modified Javanese script (cacarakan) and Javanese script (carakan) are:
Javanese script is used to write Madurese language. The orthography of Madurese in Javanese script is similar to Javanese orthography.
The Javanese script is also used to transliterate Indonesian words and English words, as can be witnessed in public places, especially in Surakarta and its surrounding area. Words from either Indonesian or English origin are written as they are pronounced in Javanese, not as they were written in Latin. For example, "Solo Grand Mall" is transliterated as ꦱꦺꦴꦭꦺꦴꦒꦿꦺꦤ꧀ꦩꦭ꧀, which transliterates back as "Solo Grèn Mal" (pronounced /sɔlɔ gren mɔl/).
As of 2013, there are several widely published fonts able to support Javanese, ANSI-based Hanacaraka/Pallawa by Teguh Budi Sayoga, Adjisaka by Sudarto HS/Ki Demang Sokowanten, JG Aksara Jawa by Jason Glavy, Carakan Anyar by Pavkar Dukunov, and Tuladha Jejeg by R.S. Wihananto, which is based on Graphite (SIL) smart font technology. Other fonts with limited publishing includes Surakarta made by Matthew Arciniega in 1992 for Mac's screen font, and Tjarakan developed by AGFA Monotype around 2000. There is also a symbol-based font called Aturra developed by Aditya Bayu in 2012–2013. In 2014, Google introduced Noto Sans Javanese as part of its Noto font series to support all the world's languages.
Due to the script's complexity, many Javanese fonts have different input methods compared to other Indic scripts and may exhibit several flaws. JG Aksara Jawa, in particular, may cause conflicts with other writing systems, as the font uses code points from other writing systems to complement Javanese's extensive repertoire. This is to be expected, as the font was made before the implementation of the Javanese script in Unicode.
Arguably, the most "complete" font, in terms of technicality and glyph count, is Tuladha Jejeg. It is capable of logical input-method and displaying complex syllable structure, and supports an extensive glyph repertoire including non-standard forms which may not be found in regular Javanese texts, by utilizing Graphite (SIL) smart font technology. However, as not many writing systems require such complex features, use is limited to programs with Graphite technology, such as Firefox browser, Thunderbird email client, and several OpenType word processors. The font was chosen for displaying Javanese script in the Javanese Wikipedia.
Javanese script was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 2009 with the release of version 5.2.
The Unicode block for Javanese is U+A980–U+A9DF. There are 91 code points for Javanese script: 53 letters, 19 punctuation marks, 10 numbers, and 9 vowels: