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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.