Elliot Stern emstern at NNI.COM
Tue Jul 7 13:15:09 UTC 1998

>Jacob Baltuch wrote:
>>PS: Regarding "water was filled in the tank" I agree with Elliot. It
>>    presupposes "someone filled water in the tank" and that's not possible
>>    because you fill a tooth, a tank, land, a hole, a need, etc. but not
>>    water, earth, etc. In other words what you do the filling with cannot
>>    be the direct object of the verb "to fill". Maybe people in LA started
>>    talking like this (this sort of thing seems to be liable to change
>>    pretty fast in English -- ...
>I fail to understand. As far as I can see, the verb "fill" can be used in
>different ways, see examples in Webster's Dictionary: 1. "to fill a jar
>with water"; 5. "to fill sand into a pail". And I doubt that this double
>use of the verb is recent, because you have the same in German: "einen Krug
>mit Wasser fuellen" and "Sand in einen Kuebel fuellen". The same holds god
>for the Norwegian verb "fylle".
>Georg v. Simson

I did not actually claim that "fill" could not be used in the sense of "to
fill sand into a pail", or "to fill water in(to) the tank". Let me quote
what I wrote, and explain:

"Before Vidyasankar Sundaresan's English example A becomes well established
in this discussion, I would like to question that it is an appropriate
translation for 1) ta.n.nIr to.t.ti(y)-il niramp-i(y)-atu. Rather, I think
the expected English translation for 1> is:

A'. Water filled in the tank.

Further, while I would not go so far as to say that the passive
construction translation in A could not occur, my feeling as a native
Brooklyn, NY, USA speaker of American English is that it is somehow wrong;
I would probably understand A as a mistake for A'."

I was more uncomfortable with the passive construction than the semantic
"fill water in the tank". Please also note that I was expressing a
*feeling* that
"Water was filled in the tank" is (that is, seems) *somehow wrong*, rather
than asserting as an authoritative pronouncement that it is wrong. Maybe I
should have written "seems somehow wrong" rather than "is somehow wrong".
When I wrote the message, I recall that I thought "seems" would represent
either a redundancy or overkill, as I was already explicitly talking about
a feeling.

When Vidyasankar replied,

"Well, I'm used to writing what can be called technical English writing,
using almost 100% passive sentences, for purposes of scientific
publications. I've probably seen and used hundreds of sentences like A.
To my ears, A conveys a different meaning from A'. "Water was filled in
the tank" implies that a human being did this action. "Water filled in
the tank" implies that this happened of its own accord, or due to
non-human agency, e.g. due to rain or some such reason."

I began to draft a reply, but trashed it. As my reply could have pushed the
discussion into a "my Sprachgefuehl versus your Sprachgefuehl" exchange on
an issue only tangentially related to a proper Indology list discussion, I

I regret that I initiated this small diversion from indological discussion,
and hope that it ends here. At the same time I would like to express thanks
to Vidyasankar Sundaresan, Jacob Baltuch, and Georg v. Simson for their

Elliot M. Stern
552 South 48th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19143-2029

telephone: 215 747 6204

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