A couple of weeks ago I finished a great book named The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language by the psychologist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker. It is not a book directly related to programming, but if you are interested in languages (be that human or computer languages) or just popular science in general I think you will enjoy it. It covers the theory that all human language share a common universal grammar, and that this grammar is innately encoded in the human brain.

It goes into great detail on how children learn language, a feat that every human child do by just listing to adults talk. The book can be quite technical with a lot linguistic jargon sometimes, but it is still very readable. I really like the chapter about how creole languages evolve from pidgin languages.

A pidgin language is (wikipedia):

A pidgin is a simplified language that develops as a means of communication between two or more groups that do not have a language in common, in situations such as trade. Pidgins are not the native language of any speech community, but are instead learned as second languages.

A pidgin is a language with a very simplified or non existent grammar which require a lot of context to be understandable (like physically pointing to what or who are are talking about). A creole language is a well defined and stable language that has evolved from a pidgin language. A popular theory (the one discussed in the book) describes how creole languages are created by young children learning a pidgin language as a native language, and in that process creates a more complex grammar, with fixed phonology, syntax, morphology, and syntactic embedding. I think it is amazing that children can create a fully developed language in only a single generation.

The book also covers the evolution of the human language ability, how languages change over time and how brain damage effects speech and speech recognition.

Sorry for a post about non .net/programming, but I just wanted to share this, and yes I was reading this book when I came up with the title for this blog, oh.. and while I am at it here are some other great popular science books that I read recently which I can highly recommend: