Mursi is one of a number of closely related languages spoken in the southwest Ethiopian borderlands which have been classified as ‘Surmic’, within the Eastern Sudanic branch of the Nilo-Saharan ‘super family’. These languages include Didinga, Narim, Murle, Tenet and Baale in the Sudan, and (apart from Mursi), Chai, Tirma, Bodi, Me’en, and Kwegu/Muguji in Ethiopia.
Until recently, Mursi was not a written language, but orthographies now exist, using both Amharic and Latin-based script. An Amharic-based orthography has been developed by members of the missionary organisation, SIM who have been working amongst the Mursi at Makki (known as Mako to the Mursi), in the Mago Valley, since 1987. A Latin-based Mursi orthography has been developed by Moges Yigezu, of Addis Ababa University who, together with David Turton, is currently working on the preparation of a Mursi-Amharic-English dictionary.
On the Nilo-Saharan languages of Ethiopia see: M. L. Bender, ‘Nilo-Saharan Overview’, in M. L. Bender (ed.) The Non-Semitic Languages of Ethiopia, African Studies Centre, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 1976, pp. 439-483.
On the Surmic group of languages, see: Moges Yigezu, A comparative study of the phonetics and phonology of Surmic languages. Ph.D dissertation. Université Libre de Bruxelles, 2002
For a linguistic summary of Mursi see: (1) David Turton and M.L. Bender, ‘Mursi’, in M.L. Bender (ed.) The Non-Semitic Languages of Ethiopia. African Studies Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing, 1976, pp. 533-61. (2) David Turton, ‘Le Mun (Mursi)’, in J. Perrot (ed.) Les langues dans le Monde ancien et moderne: Les langues de l'Afrique subsaharienne, pidgins et creoles. CNRS, Paris, 1981, pp. 335-349.
For a Latin-based Mursi orthography see: Moges Yigezu and David Turton, ‘Latin based Mursi orthography’, ELRC Working Papers, Ethiopian Languages Research Center, Addis Ababa University, Vol. 1, No. 2 December 2005, pp. 242-57.