Old Sundanese 101: Part V — Panéléng & Panolong

This post is the fifth in a series on the Old Sundanese language. For earlier posts in the series, see: · PART I · PART II · PART III · PART IV ·

In the last post in this series we looked at how the inherent vowel in a syllable (like ka) could be cancelled or killed with diacritics or in other ways (resulting in k). In this post we’re going to look at two more diacritics, the panéléng and panolong. There will still be a few more diacritics to go through after this, but once you’ve grasped the function of the panolong the Old Sundanese script(s) won’t hold many more surprises for you, and it’ll be a relatively straightforward process to start reading real manuscripts. Let’s dive right in.

The Panéléng

The panéléng is very simple: it replaces the inherent vowel of an aksara, -a, with -é (so from ⟨ka⟩ to ⟨⟩). Unlike the other diacritics we’ve looked at so far, the panéléng comes before the aksara that it modifies. In the lontar script that we’ve been working with over the course of this series, the panéléng looks like this (Figure 1):

Fig. 1 — My attempt at drawing the panéléng ⟨-é⟩

I’m going to keep it simple this and we’re not going to look at a complete line/sentence in this post. In Figure 2 you can see an example of the panéléng in the Bujangga Manik manuscript in the syllable -téng (from the word bo(n)téng ‘cucumber’; you may recognise the dot above the syllable, representing ⟨-ng⟩, from Part III):

Fig. 2 — ⟨téng⟩ in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Jav. b.3. (R), f.7v.

And here’s the same image marked-up, for clarity’s sake (Figure 3):

Fig. 3 — The ⟨téng⟩ from above, marked-up.

Its use is fairly simple. The important things to remember here are that the panéléng comes before the aksara it modifies and changes the vowel of a syllable to -é.

The Panolong

The panolong is a little more complicated. It has two main functions. It looks like this (Figure 4):

Fig. 4 — My attempt at drawing the panolong.

The first function is to collaborate with the panéléng to make ⟨o⟩. The panéléng goes on the left and the panolong on the right, like this (Figure 5):

Fig. 5 — My attempt at drawing the panéléng-panolong combo, which makes ⟨o⟩.

There are other ways of writing ⟨o⟩, but this is a common one, and it’s the most common use of the panolong. Here it is twice in the word ko(m)bong ‘bed chamber’ (Figure 6):

Fig. 6 — The word “kombong” ‘bed chamber’ in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Jav. b.3. (R), f.7r.

And here’s the same figure marked-up so you can see what’s going on (yes, I’m aware that reading lontar manuscripts is not the easiest thing in the world, especially on a screen, but I promise you that it gets easier with time — Figure 7):

Fig. 7 — The same word, “kombong”, marked-up.

The panéléng appears to the left of the aksaras ⟨ka⟩ and ⟨ba⟩ here. The panolong appears on the right. In combination that gives us ⟨ko⟩ and ⟨bo⟩. You’ll notice the dot above the ⟨ba⟩ again, so we know it’s ⟨bong⟩, and the other nasal -m- we interpolate from context on the basis of the modern Sundanese word kombong ‘bed chamber’. (You may remember from last time that nasals are not always written, especially before homorganic consonants. This example, by the way, is taken from some of the most evocative and best poetry in Bujangga Manik, and we’ll definitely be looking at these lines another time.)

I don’t think we’ve come across the aksara ⟨ba⟩ before. Here it is in isolation (Figure 8):

Fig. 8 — The aksara ⟨ba⟩, both my attempt at drawing it and as it appears in the “Bujangga Manik” MS.

You might notice that the bit on the left of the aksaras ⟨ta⟩ and ⟨ba⟩ looks rather like the panéléng. There’s quite a lot of this in the Old Sundanese lontar script — re-use of the same graphic elements in different graphemes. It gives the script an interesting visual and aesthetic uniformity that I personally find rather appealing (but your mileage may vary).

Anyway. The panolong has another function, and that is to double the consonant of the aksara it follows without doubling the vowel. This is a relatively rare function, but you can’t read Old Sundanese manuscripts if you don’t know what’s going on with it. I should mention that some manuscripts distinguish graphically between the panolong (which makes the -o sound) and the panyaruk (which performs this separating function). You can call it the ‘gemination mark’ either way; in the Bujangga Manik manuscript the panolong and the gemination mark are the same sign.

The gemination mark basically has the effect — and this is a bit strange, so bear with me — of separating the vowel of an aksara from the consonant at word boundaries. Most of the other elements of the Old Sundanese scripts can be found in the scripts used to write Old Javanese, but to my knowledge this function is not found in any Old Javanese texts.

Here’s an example, anyway. It comes from Bujangga Manik, like all the other examples so far, and specifically from MS Jav. b.3. (R), f.9v (Figure 9). You ought to recognise some of these aksaras already. The bit in the white box reads ⟨ke na ing⟩, but it ought to be transliterated ken aing (or possibly ken naing). There’s a panolong after the ⟨na⟩, and in effect what that does is strip the ⟨-a⟩ from the ⟨na⟩ and transfer it to the ⟨ing⟩.

Fig. 9 — The other weirder use of the “panolong”, splitting the “-a” from the syllable it follows and transferring it to the next word.

Aing, incidentally, is the Old Sundanese word for ‘I, me’ — it’s a first-person pronoun, and one of the most common words in Bujangga Manik. The approximate meaning of ken aing is ‘let me…’ or ‘I’ll just…’. You might not recognise the ⟨i⟩ here, by the way; it’s an aksara swara (independent vowel), and in isolation it looks like this (Figure 10):

Fig. 10 — The aksara swara ⟨i⟩, an independent vowel like the ⟨u⟩ we came across in Part III. You might notice that it looks like ⟨ba⟩ with a squiggle underneath (which is exactly how you write it).

You may remember from the last post (Part IV) that gemination was not a regular feature of Old Sundanese phonology (as far as we know). That means that if you have two like consonants in a row in an Old Sundanese word or sentence, you don’t pronounce them separately, like in Italian; you pronounce them as one sound. So for now we can think of this function of the panolong as either doubling the consonant of the aksara to no phonological effect or as stripping the vowel from the consonant and putting it onto the next word. It’s described both ways in the literature on this script, although in truth it is more accurate to say that it geminates the consonant of the aksara it modifies.

The gemination mark is a little complicated and strange if you’re used to alphabetical scripts (or even if you’re used to some other Brahmic scripts), but it’s a regular feature of this Old Sundanese lontar script. The gemination mark is sometimes referred to as the ‘avagraha’, but it performs a rather different function to (most uses of) the avagraha in other Brahmic scripts. I’m explaining it now so it isn’t a surprise later on, as it might otherwise be if you already know one or other Brahmic script and expect Old Sundanese scripts to work in precisely the same way.

Summing Up

So, to sum up: the panéléng precedes (i.e. appears on the left-hand side of) the aksara it modifies to change the vowel from -a to . When combined with the panolong on the right, the vowel changes from -a to -o. When the panolong is used on its own (in the Bujangga Manik manuscript specifically), it has the effect of moving the vowel to the next word in the line or sentence. The former use is considerably more common. We’ve also come across the aksaras ⟨ba⟩ and ⟨i⟩ here; they resemble one another, and ⟨i⟩ is distinguished from ⟨ba⟩ by a long squiggly line underneath it.

In the next post in this series I’ll give an overview of all the aksaras so you can start reading on your own — this particular manuscript, at least. Then we can look at some core vocabulary, some more grammar, and even some other scripts. I don’t think this series will ever have mass appeal but I sincerely hope it helps if you’re interested in reading Old Sundanese or if you’re interested in the history and culture of Sunda/West Java.

A. J. West — Leiden, October 2021

Part I, introducing this series, can be found here.

Part II, on punctuation and the page, can be found here.

Part III, on reading a simple line of poetry, can be found here.

Part IV, on cancelling inherent vowels, can be found here.

Part VI, containing tables of all the main aksaras, can be found here.

Posting about ancient and medieval Indonesia, up to ~1500 CE. Mainly into 14th & 15th century stuff, but earlier is fine too.