In LInguistics for Students of Asian and African Languages the first chapter is a very easy read and is fascinating.
The second chapter is much less quick to read, besides being longer, it is also a fairly comprehensive description of grammar. And it doesn’t include many interesting reliefs, in terms of experiments or fascinating facts.
I did learn this:
Fricatives are defined by a narrow stricture in the oro-pharyngeal tract, causing audible friction as air passes by. Fricatives are common, but languages often have fewer fricatives than stops or nasals. Voiced fricatives are less common than voiceless ones, and are only found in addition to voiceless fricatives.
English has an exceptionally high number of fricatives, the four voiceless /f T s S/ and the four voiced /v D z Z/, as illustrated by the words thief /»Ti ̆f/, fish /»fIS/, these /»Di ̆z/, vase /»veIs/, vision /»vIZ ́n/. (50)
I have, in the past, learned what fricatives are. However, I did not remember- or perhaps even know- that English has a high number of fricatives.
Learn something new every day. That’s my motto.
And here’s something that’s chock full of new things:
Some languages accept more than one consonant in the onset and in the coda, but such congestions of sound are rather rare. European languages (and a few others) are exceptional here—cf. English words like strength /»streNT/, where the onset is /str/ and the coda is /NT/—but the languages of Europe constitute only about 3% of the languages of the world. (54)
So in that I learned:
Multiple consonants to start a word are rare.
Multiple consonants to end a word are rare.
European languages constitute only 3% of languages in the world.
That’s a pretty strong gust of new information: three things in two sentences.
And, for randomness, the th in “strength” is discussed:
“English has got sounds, for example /T/, that are quite rare; /T/ is found in Arabic and Swahili, but not in Hausa, Fula, Turkish, Modern Hebrew, Persian, Hindi, Indonesian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. (54)”