Steve Pinker’s Words and Rules

In Words and Rules, Steven Pinker provides a well-rounded glimpse into linguistics, history of languages, language families, childhood speech errors, neural networks, and various other related topics through the examination of regular and irregular verbs.

What one might consider a rather boring topic on the surface (“j’ai, tu as, il/elle/on a…”, anyone?) is presented in such a manner as to make reading the same lists of the families of irregular verbs (in four languages, no less) several times bearable and even interesting. I found my interests leaning towards the history of languages and language families discussed throughout the first five or six chapters and my attention waning on the last two chapters, “The Black Box” (modern brain imagery techniques) and “A Digital Mind in an Analog world”, but this book was an interesting, fast/easy read that, if nothing else, provided a stepping stone for my budding interest in linguistics. Pinker sites well and often as he touches each topic, allowing one to obtain numerous references for further reading. His writing style is light and humorous, with personal anecdotes to break the monotony of seeing the same lists of verbs (simply rearraged) repeatedly. All in all, a very good read.