The modern Malay language has been written in two scripts: Jawi, based on Arabic letters and Rumi, based on Roman letters. From the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries, Jawi was the dominant script in the region but Rumi overtook Jawi in popularity and official usage in the twentieth century. Thus, all the medical manuscripts in Malay examined in this project were written in Jawi. Many scholars born after the 1960s in Malaysia and Indonesia are not fluent in the reading of the script, especially its handwritten varieties, as the Rumi form became the de facto national script for the language. The Jawi-Rumi converter that we created facilitates in the readings of these historical sources as it allows machine-led conversion from one script to another. Besides the conversion of scripts, much work is still needed in unpacking these manuscripts - deciphering handwriting, tracking down herb names, cross-referencing religious allusions, among others - but the converter provides a step forward towards this end.
Converter creator: Michael Wayne Goodman, NTU
Blog entry by Faizah Zakaria, NTU
Image of keyboard from Wikimedia Commons.