The Atoms of Language: The mind’s Hidden Rules of Grammar by Mark Baker
For those of you like me who are interested in how language works and functions, this is an excellent book to get started with. The book makes the analogy that just as there is a periodic table for the elements in chemistry, there is a “table” of sorts that linguists are putting together that can categorize and structure languages of the world. Baker discusses how linguistics are forming “parameters” that separate languages from others (usually associated with the subject location, verb, placement of words and verb phrases.) Bakers implies that these parameters help categorize and structure language as a whole more efficiently than country of origin or cultural difference associated with each language.
Mark Baker does an wonderful job of making linguistics readable for the average person–and yet not sacrificing terms, definitions and examples from the field of linguistics. Examples include associates between Japanese, English, French, a native-american language from the Iroquois, Mohawk, and discusses other unique languages that one may not readily think of when discussing tongues of the world.
A basic knowledge of English grammar and syntax would be necessary for understanding this book, along with perhaps knowledge of another language other than your own since some topics make sense with some bi-lingual knowledge base.