#BookReview: Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John McWhorter

Entertaining Discussion Of An Esoteric Topic. Up front here: I can’t judge this book’s bibliography, as I listened to the Audible version of it, which doesn’t have that. I’m also no linguist, more of a polyglot who knows a little (or a lottle) about a lot and is interested in learning about… well, damn near everything. Thus, someone who read the text version of the book and *can* speak to its breadth or dearth of bibliography may or may not deduct the star I normally do for dearth, and an actual linguist, or at least someone more familiar with the field, may have more cohesive arguments for or against the actual points raised here.

Those caveats noted, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. McWhorter reads his own work in the Audible form, and he uses enough humor here to make what could be an extremely dense topic rather enjoyable to learn a little about. Further, his arguments *seem* at minimum plausible, and possibly exactly correct – again, at least to someone completely untrained and mostly unknowledgeable in the field at hand. And the arguments he presents are also quite compelling and interesting to boot, which is generally a sign of at minimum a well thought out and well written nonfiction piece. Further, at just 250 or pages in print and just 5 hrs or so in Audible… this isn’t exactly a huge time sink if it turns out to be not your thing… and you’ll still learn at least a few things while reading it.

Overall, this is absolutely a book that will leave you thinking a bit and perhaps having learned a bit too. It will expand your horizons to think more about *how*, *exactly*, humans communicate with each other and what the grammars of our various languages say about how we think about things – and the arguments that perhaps it says absolutely nothing at all. Very much recommended.

This review of Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John McWhorter was originally written on August 2, 2023.

#BookReview: The Language Game by Morten H Christiansen and Nick Chater

Fascinating. This is a book that basically argues that Noam Chomsky had some great ideas, but ultimately was quite a bit wrong and quite a bit off. And yes, that is an oversimplification explicitly designed (by me) to hook you into reading this book while also giving you an idea of the ultimate direction here. The authors are consistently afraid of “anarchy” *even while actually touting its exact benefits* – their entire argument is that language (and humanity) evolve best and most usefully outside of the bounds of rules (and thus outside the bounds of rulers – and since the literal definition of “anarchy” is “without rulers”… 😉 ). Which is where they ultimately come into conflict with Chomsky’s ideas of a universal language and a universal grammar machine. For someone that is decently educated but well outside the specific field at hand (Bachelor of Science in Computer Science), I found this to be a solid examination of the topic in language that I could easily follow- whenever technical discussions within the field were at hand, Christiansen and Chater did a solid job of using their running metaphor of a game of charades to explain the differences and similarities in what they were describing using a system that so many of us know fairly well and can relate to very easily. As I said in the title here, truly a fascinating book, one anyone “of the word” – and thus, any reader, since we are *all* people “of the word” – should read. Very much recommended.

This review of The Language Game by Morten H Christiansen and Nick Chater was originally written on December 1, 2021.