This construction is weirdly similar to how you can say this in (some) Slavic languages, if my brain is figuring this right. I can't think of exact equivalents because it's late and my brain is fuzzy, but it seems like how you might say "kot to zwierzę" (a cat is an animal) in Polish (which in Polish means avoiding the instrumental case, which is nice ;)), or кошка это животный (same meaning) in Russian.
(I think Ukrainian has a similar construction, but I don't remember exactly, and I don't remember the word for animal!)
But the noun, demonstrative, noun thing seems very similar to the Hebrew construction, assuming I've understood correctly how the Hebrew version is built, of course ;) since I am not a native speaker in any of these languages, and rustily fluent only in one.
Any other Slavic language speakers notice this/think it feels familiar?
According to Olga Kagan, the Hebrew copular construction with ’זה‚ was likely borrowed from Slavic languages. See “Predicate Nominal Sentences with the Hebrew ze and Its Russian Counterpart eto”.
Yes, I knew it was optional in Russian :)
That's very interesting that it may have been a borrowing from Slavic languages - I checked, and Ukrainian does use a similar construction. I don't remember Croatian doing so, but I haven't studied it in fifteen years, and I haven't made it that far down the Czech reverse tree to find out... it'll be interesting to see if it pops up in either of those when I get far enough/do some revision.
Thanks for the info, off to read that page now!
Croatian and Serbian don't really use it like that... You could say "Muha, to je insekt" or "Muva, to je insekt" like you could say "A fly, that's an insect" in English, but you wouldn't say "Muha to insekt" or "Muva to insekt" ("Muva to insekt" could mean something like "An insect is hitting on that", since "muvati" is kind of like a slang for "to be hitting on", so it wouldn't make much sense)... Usually, people would say it as "Muha je insekt" or "Muva je insekt" and you can alternatively say it as "Muha insekt je" or "Muva insekt je" (the "je" is kind of like a short form of "jeste", which means "it is").
Thanks! I couldn't remember such a construction in Croatian, but it's been a reeeeally long time so I wasn't at all sure.
I was thinking that this was because Ukrainian and Russian don't have "to be" in the present tense, but then remembered that Polish does.
It occurs to me that, as far as I remember, Croatian doesn't use the instrumental in predicate(?) sentences in the present tense like Polish does? So that makes me wonder if it's because of that that Polish has ended up with a simpler construction to avoid always using the instrumental.
(With the disclaimer that I'm just dabbling in the reverse course, Czech doesn't appear to have this construction and also doesn't use the instrumental in those kinds of sentences, so that's my best guess why Polish has it. I am guessing, but it seems logical...)
By the way, I've notice the comment by Ploomich:
Notes from first lesson: In Hebrew the verb "to be" doesn't exist in the present tense - meaning that there is no "am" , "is" or "are" in Hebrew .
So, is it wrong to say: זבוב חרק if you want to say, "A fly is an insect."? Or is the use of "zeh" just another way to say “(this) IS (that).”? Thanks so much for your help! :)
Define " OK " -- all your younger Israeli speakers will say 'no', but classical (Biblical and rabbinc[medieval])Hebrew, until 1947 didn't use that construction. As pointed out above it's an import brought by Polish and Russian Jews immigrating to Israel in the last 30 years. In the Tanakh it is WRONG to use it as a copula. Israeli is one of the fastest changing languages in the world. (and a lot of hubris about speaking the latest slang).