The meaning of zehu in spoken Israeli Hebrew:

A corpus-based analysis of its interjectional function

  • Leon Shor Tel Aviv University
  • Anna Inbar Tel Aviv University


This paper focuses on a particular use of the item zehu ‘that’s it’ in spoken Israeli Hebrew, in which it functions as a secondary interjection that conveys the meanings of “completion” and “restriction”. In light of zehu’s morphological makeup – a fusion of the sgm demonstrative ze ‘this’ and the 3sgm pronoun hu ‘he’ – the interjectional use is suggested to have originated in the grammaticalization of the clause ze hu ‘That’s him/that,’ a clause that is normally used in Israeli Hebrew for the identification of people and objects. Each of the two interjectional meanings conveyed by zehu is suggested to be conceptually linked to the meanings of “wholeness” and “rejection” – meanings that are potentially related to the basic identificational function of the clause ze hu ‘That’s him/that.’ The interconnection between the meanings of “completion”/ “restriction” and the meanings of “wholeness”/“rejection” is supported by tendencies in semantic change and by patterns of co-speech gestures.

How to Cite
Shor, L., & Inbar, A. (2019). The meaning of zehu in spoken Israeli Hebrew:. Scandinavian Studies in Language, 10(1), 131-151.