I’ve gotten a couple of review copies that I won’t have time to read for a while but that look so interesting and useful that I want to put the word out about them right away:
1) The Indo-European Controversy: Facts and Fallacies in Historical Linguistics, by Asya Pereltsvaig and Martin W. Lewis. The blurb says:
Over the past decade, a group of prolific and innovative evolutionary biologists has sought to reinvent historical linguistics through the use of phylogenetic and phylogeographical analysis, treating cognates like genes and conceptualizing the spread of languages in terms of the diffusion of viruses. Using these techniques, researchers claim to have located the origin of the Indo-European language family in Neolithic Anatolia, challenging the near-consensus view that it emerged in the grasslands north of the Black Sea thousands of years later. But despite its widespread celebration in the global media, this new approach fails to withstand scrutiny. As languages do not evolve like biological species and do not spread like viruses, the model produces incoherent results, contradicted by the empirical record at every turn. This book asserts that the origin and spread of languages must be examined primarily through the time-tested techniques of linguistic analysis, rather than those of evolutionary biology.
I’ve often cited Asya’s blog Languages Of The World (e.g., here), and that description is certainly singing my song (“the time-tested techniques of linguistic analysis”: hear, hear!), so I’m very much looking forward to reading the book.
2) May I Quote You on That?: A Guide to Grammar and Usage, by Stephen Spector. I generally look askance at popular usage guides, but this one looks very well done; it starts off pointing out that “We all use language in different styles, depending on the situation,” it’s written in a lively manner, it uses well-chosen quotes to make its points (and leads each section with them, rather than with a rule), and above all, it actually mentions the history behind the rules rather than presenting them as graven in stone — under “It’s or its,” for example, Spector says “The distinction that we use today didn’t become standard until the nineteenth century and into the twentieth.” For twelve bucks (or seven for the Kindle edition), you could do a lot worse.