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This thesis describes the tonal system of verbs in Mbelime (ISO 639-3: mql), a
Niger-Congo: Gur language spoken in northwestern Benin (Lewis 2009) and provides an
analysis of this tonal system in Optimality Theory, a constraint-based phonological
theory. Furthermore, the data is used to evaluate current theories of tone features,
concluding that a theory which uses a relative register feature cannot accurately account
for the combination of upstep and downstep that occurs in Mbelime. Although two
previous works describe tone on Mbelime verbs (Rietkerk 2000; Neukom 2005), they
disagree on some points of analysis and neither makes full use of autosegmental theory.
Therefore, this thesis serves to clarify points of disagreement and provide a more
thorough, theoretically-grounded analysis. Furthermore, Mbelime has three underlying
tones as well as upstep and downstep, a rare combination of features, so this detailed
analysis of Mbelime tone will benefit the field of linguistics.
In the interest of making this work available without further delay, we are posting it as it was accepted by the institution that granted the degree without further peer review.