At 10:35 am -0400 26/4/99, John Cowan wrote:
>Scripsit Thorinn:
>> Formally, that's a second-person imperative. The verb 'let' in this
>> use may have been bleached to give a meaning similar to a third-person
>> subjunctive, but that is still a matter of lexicon, not of syntax.
>I think the matter is arguable: when does such a bleaching leave
>the particle entirely grammaticalized?  My current Sprachgefuehl
>is that all sense of "let" = "permit" is gone from this construction.

Yes, I think it has.

Unfortunately, however, 'let' can still be used with the meaning of
'permit' and there must, I suspect, still be the odd occasion when, e.g. a
translator into French must decide whether "let us go!" is 'Laissez-nous
partir!' or simply 'Partons!'

If we have, say, hostages or prisoners speaking to their captives, then the
former meaning is clearly intended.  But someone speaking to a group of
friends who have decided to move off somewhere is not asking someone or
some few among his friends to let him & maybe a few others go but is rather
suggesting to them _all_ that that they all go: 'Partons!', 'abeamus' etc.

Greek went through a similar development.  The old 3rd person imperatives
have now gone; the meaning is expressed in the modern language by 'as'
followed by a subjunctive.  This 'as' is a very bleached or watered down
form of earlier 'aphes' -> 'afes' imperative of the irrgular verb
'aphie:mi' (I allow, permit).  But, of course, Greek has gone one stage
further than English in that 'as' can no longer be regarded even formally
as an imperative.