Batak Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Batak Languages


a group of closely related Indonesian languages and dialects. They are distributed primarily in the mountainous interior regions of Northern Sumatra and centered at Lake Toba. The Batak languages were spoken by approximately 2.5 million people in 1967. The major Batak languages include Toba, spoken at Lake Toba in the central portion of the Batak linguistic area; Ankola-Mandailing, to the south and southeast of Toba; Simalungun, to the northeast of Lake Toba; and Karo, to the northwest of Lake Toba.

For a number of centuries the Batak languages used a special Batak writing system, which traces back to the writing systems of southern India. By the middle of the 20th century, however, it was almost entirely supplanted by the Latin alphabet. The Batak languages were not exposed to any substantial literary treatment. The traditional written literature is represented mainly by texts on the supernatural. It has a rich folklore. The authors, Bataks by birth, generally write in the Indonesian language. Study of the Batak languages was first begun by the Dutch linguist H. N. van der Tuuk (in the third quarter of the 19th century). However, dictionaries and scientific descriptions of the Batak languages have not yet been written to fulfill modern requirements.


Tuuk, H. N. van der. Tobasche spraakkunst. Amsterdam, 1864–67.
Neumann, J. H. Karo-Bataks-Nederlands woordenboek. Jakarta, 1951.
Voorhoeve, P. Critical Survey of Studies on the Languages of Sumatra. The Hague, 1955.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
This book results from a research project on the literary traditions of North Sumatra, initiated by the author and her late husband Lode Frank Brakel; the husband and wife pair researched storytelling in Malay and Batak languages in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Such volumes were probably also modelled on Dutch templates--in this case the great grammars of Batak languages such as H.N.
Given his abundant self-publishing venues and his close ties to the Tapanuli newspaper business as the prominent editor of such newspapers as Sipirok's Pardomoean (Public meeting place) (an Angkola Batak language paper), Sutan Pangurabaan was able to base his oeuvre in commercial print publishing, not in the colonial government's official school textbook-sponsoring institutions.
Trap in Leiden in the Angkola Batak language and sent to Tapanuli as instructional materials (Trap 1904)).
His many Angkola Batak-language works were implicitly confined to a southern Batak readership; people from other Indies ethnic societies rarely read a Batak language. But, these volumes too seem aimed at an audience on the journey 'towards a new world'.
This little Angkola Batak language book was mostly a prose format story about disputes within the family of the wondrous Raja Martua of the Heavens, Raja Good Fortune of the Sky.
The word list gives the Angkola Batak language and its speakers a weighty presence in the library stacks of dictionaries found in Dutch scholars' studies of the Indies, among missionary families, and in the homes and offices of civil servants.
Their policy of reinforcing the different Batak languages at the expense of Malay (partly to preclude the possibility of Islamic conversion), together with conversion to a specific denomination, further highlighted ethnic differences between different Batak groups and between the Batak and Malay.