All you need is another ‘Need’
On the verbal NPI cycle in the history of German*
In this chapter, I will examine the verbal NPI cycle in the history of German including three NPIs: dürfen, bedürfen and brauchen. In doing so, I will illustrate that dürfen used to function as an NPI in older stages and that it lost its NPI status due to a semantic change. The received wisdom has it that dürfen was then replaced by brauchen (cf. Bech 1951; Kolb 1964; Lenz 1996; Paul 1897). I will challenge this view and provide evidence illustrating that dürfen was first replaced by bedürfen, while bedürfen has being replaced by brauchen in the last three centuries. In my view, bedürfen builds a bridge between dürfen and brauchen. Remarkably, as there is no need to preserve both predicates in Modern German, bedürfen as NPI is about to disappear giving way to brauchen. In what follows, I argue that dürfen, bedürfen and brauchen constitute a linguistic cycle in the sense claimed by van Gelderen (2009, 2011, this volume) and illustrate, both synchronically and diachronically, that although these three predicates have a lot in common, they differ in several respects. Their differences, however, do not weaken the cycle analysis. Quite the opposite, they provide direct evidence for typical hallmarks of a linguistic cycle, whereby “toward the end of the cycle, similar events start again, but they are (slightly) different and happen at a difference pace” (van Gelderen 2011: 3). As it will turn out, these properties hold for the NPI cycle in German as well.