Thursday, April 8, 2010

[Baybayin] Original Character Order?

So what was the original ordering of the characters?

When we write the vowels first, I see vestiges. But then we usually go in "font order", that is, K D G H K L M N P (R) S T... you know, the trusty Latin-based alphabetical order.

In the Doctrina Cristiana, however, the Baybayin character order was recorded as A U E H P K S L T N B M G D/R Y NG W. That ain't based on OUR alphabet, bub. And... see the vowels? They're first, like we often still see the characters written.

So there's a datum. Where can I go with that? If I knew more about the Brahmic-related scripts, then I'd compare directly with them.

Next best thing: I'll use the Japanese kana ordering. From Wikipedia:

The gojūon is an ancient convention (somewhere around 1004 to 1028 AD), originating in the character ordering in Sanskrit, as well as a means for expressing the hansetsu of Chinese characters.

Aha. So let's compare the ordering of gojūon with the Doctrina Cristiana order:

Kana Doctrina
Ka K
Sa S
() L
Ta T
Na N
Ha B*
Ma M
() G
Ya Y
() NG
Wa W

* Some differences apply: In Japanese, the kana has its own 'kudlits' which can, for example, turn /HA/ into /PA/ or /BA/ -- /KA/ into /GA/. And Japanese has no /L/ sound -- /R/ is midway between our L and R, and use it in both places. And it has no /NG/.

* h/b/p (はばぱ) are placed where p/b are in Sanskrit (again from Wikipedia). So it looks like Baybayin is closer to Sanskrit order than Kana order, which is perfectly reasonable.

Looks pretty reasonable to assume that Baybayin originally used an old Brahmic ordering. Not surprising. But it's nice to have some evidence for that.


  1. OK, here goes again, second try, and I’m writing it in a text editor just in case(!) and I have to post it in two pieces because apparently I'm over the 4096 character limit...

    This time, I’m just going to post the orders for the various scripts other than the Javanese group.
    (The unattributed orders come from and

    Batak (Marsden 1834):
    a(<h) h(<k) n m t d l r b p w y j s g ng ny i u

    Batak (standard modern order, most Batak languages - from Omniglot and Unicode code charts):
    a(<h) h(=h or <k) k b p n w g j d r m t s y ng l ny/c i u
    (a comes originally from the h letter; h can be the original h letter or derived from k depending on the language; the same letter can stand for c or ny, depending on the language; Mandailing has both, in ny-c order.)

    Batak Karo:
    a(<h) h k b p n w g j d r m t s y ng l c nd mb i u

    Rejang (all sources agree):
    k g ng t d n p b m c j ny s r l y w h mb ngg nd nj a(empty vowel bearer)

    Kerinci (Westenenk 1922):
    k g ng t d n p b m c j ny s r l w y h a(<h) mb ngg nd nj mp ngh nt nc ngs

    Kerinci (Marsden 1834):
    t n s j ny k b m h aw y nd ng (?:“hangu”) ngk a(<h) l g p n a/h (?:“hi”) c ns h mp nt r

    Lampung (Marsden 1834, van der Tuuk 1868):
    k g ng p b m t d n c j ny y a l r s w h

  2. Here's the second part:

    (Makassar-)Bugis post-1850s standard order:
    k g ng ngk p b m mp t d n nr c j ny nc y r l w s a h
    The h is last in order because it was originally borrowed from Arabic to represent the sound in borrowed Arabic words and isn’t related to the h in the other scripts. (You can actually see several different variant shapes of the Arabic letter in older documents.) South Sulawesi languages originally had no h sound and therefore didn’t have an h letter either.
    It’s very interesting to see the similarity in order with Lampung. There are fascinating ways where pieces of evidence from one script coincide with similarities in another that actually let you piece together a picture of where and how the ancestor of these scripts was introduced to the archipelago, how it changed in various places and spread to other areas, and how some scripts made partial borrowings from other scripts at later periods.

    (Makassar-)Bugis (Raffles 1817):
    k g ng ngk p b m mp t d n nr c j ny nc r l w s h a (he forgot to include y)

    (Makassar-)Bugis (Marsden 1834):
    k g ng ngk p b m mp t d n nr c j ny nc r l w s a h y

    (Makassar-)Bugis order actually written out on an early (1700s-mid-1800s) document:
    k g ng ngk p b m t d n r c j ny y s w l (a?)
    This last document is very interesting and valuable because it is a key piece of evidence for an older form of y with one dot under the right arch (contrasting with an older a with its dot under the left arch, which was already pointed out by Noorduyn in 1993). Modern y has two dots, one under each arch, and modern a has one under the right arch, like this old y letter, and before the modern standard shape was settled on there was a period with a lot of variation between documents. The *old* forms are the final piece in the puzzle for the dotted letters in Makassar-Bugis script: with these two forms it finally becomes clear across the board that all dotted letters in this script correspond directly to Philippine letters with adjunct lines or squiggles in the same position in the letter, only flattened (a g d n [l] y). Ergo, most of the modern Makassar-Bugis forms derive directly from more complex letter forms very similar to the Baybayin of the 1500s.

    (Oh, by the way, a good clue to the likely Kawi order is the order in Sundanese, which like Javanese-Balinese is clearly directly descended from Kawi, but does not use the “hanacaraka” order.)
    From the Unicode charts page:
    a i u (ae) o e (eu) k (q) g ng c j (z) ny t d n p (f v) b m y r l w s (x) h
    (The letters between parentheses are modern letters derived from letters standing for related sounds. The new ones are used for loanwords from Arabic, Dutch, English etc. The Sundanese Wikipedia page gives a slightly different order, putting the new derived letters after the original ones in their order.)

  3. Plainly, it seems then that the overwhelming order in these samples is Brahmic -- letters are ganged up in groups, palatals, labials, whatnot.

    The 'k' series
    k g ng

    then the palatals
    p b m

    then the dentals
    t d n

    then the ch-series
    c j ny

    then liquids, trills, vowel carriers, etceteras?
    y a l r s w h

    I suppose it's more reasonable then that Baybayin would be similarly ordered. Starting with Makassar-Bugis, and throwing out /ngk/:

    k g ng p b m t d n r c j ny y s w l (a?)

    I don't know what to think of the final words. RL is a pair, but the orders do tend to vary.

    k g ng, p b m, t d n, r l, w, s, a h, y, e, u?