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Description and philological analysis of the Batak manuscript 11118

The following dissertation’s abstract is to explore some issues related to the Batak writing tradition, by focusing the attention on the complete edition of MS 11118 from the collection stored at the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology in Florence.

The first chapter serves as an introduction pertaining to the life and travels of the collector, Elio Modigliani (1860–1932), particularly his journeys among the Batak, to restrict the area within which Modigliani assembled the manuscript collection. It follows a chapter concerning the general information about the Batak people, their scripts, their history and their use. It also includes a section concerning the special linguistic genre employed in a Batak bark book (pustaha), known as hata poda, i.e. the language of the instructions.

The third chapter gives an account of some primary information about the three languages of the South (Toba, Angkola, Mandailing) and one language from the North (Dairi), which are the languages used in MS 11118. These data are required to describe the specific language and script features observed during the analysis of the textual material of MS 11118, which are explained in the fifth chapter.

The fourth chapter illustrates the different analysis perspectives used to study the manuscripts, by presenting a facsimile, a diplomatic and a critical edition. The manuscript has 58 folios, with two wooden covers; one is plain, and the other has some unfinished carvings. It is 32 cm in length and 26 cm in width, and it is one of the largest specimens of the Batak manuscripts collection in Florence.
The facsimile edition, i.e. photographic copy, is the most reliable method to reproduce a manuscript, and its material and scripts characteristics. For space concerns, it has been added at the end of the work.
Both the lack of study and the lack of clear-cut cultural and linguistic borders constitutes a challenge in the selection of the most suitable method for the diplomatic edition.

To transliterate the text I had to implement different non-phonological orthographic conventions to reproduce both the orthographic syllables (aksara) and the diacritics of the Batak scripts. The language of the MS is mostly Toba-Mandailing, with influences from Dairi; thus, the presence of graphemes from these different linguistic realities also is represented using distinct codes to transliterate each of them.

These conventions are explained in the paragraph’s introduction and summarized in a table at the beginning of the diplomatic edition. The method adopted for the critical edition is that of one source, and scribal errors are emended in the text, and later classified in tables. The tables are distinguished based on the factors of omission, addition, dittography, substitution and metathesis.

The final chapter attempts to translate the text into English and investigate the textual data. The content of the manuscript is defined based on the division into 41 chapters provided by the scribe with the chapter markers called bindu na godang. For each manuscript’s chapter, some information gathered from the available references is provided.

This chapter also presents a description of the unique characteristics of the language used in MS 11118, and a brief paragraph dedicated to its iconography.