1. What is Language
Language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols used for human communication.
2. What is Linguistics(语言学)
Linguistics is the scientific study of language.
3.Some Basic Distinctions(区分) in Linguistics
3.1 Speech and Writing
One general principle(原则) of linguistic analysis is the primacy of speech over writing. Writing gives language new scope(范畴) and uses that speech does not have.
3.2 Descriptive(描述性) or Prescriptive(说明性)
A linguistic study is descriptive if it describes and analyses facts observed; it is prescriptive if it tries to lay down rules for "correct" behavior.
3.3 Synchronic(共时) and Diachronic(历时) Studies
The description of a language at some point in time is a synchronic study and The description of a language as it changes through time is a diachronic study.
3.4 Langue(语言) and Parole(言语)
This is a distinction made by the Swiss linguist F.De Saussure (索绪尔）early last century. langue refers to the abstract linguistic system shared by all the members of a speech community and parole refers to the actualized(实际的) language, or realization of langue.
3.5 Competence(能力)and Performance(行为)
Competence is the ideal language user's knowledge of the rules of his language. Performance is the actual realization of this knowledge in utterances(发声).
4.The Scope of Linguistics
General linguistics is the study of language as a whole.
Phonetics(语音学) is the branch of linguistics which studies the characteristics of speech sounds and provides methods for their description, classification and transcription.
Phonology(音韵学) is the branch of linguistics which studies the sound patterns of languages.
Morphology(词法) is the branch of linguistics which studies the form of words.
Syntax(句法) is the branch of linguistics which studies the rules governing the combination of words into sentences.
Semantics(语义学) is the branch of linguistics which studies the meaning of language.
Applied linguistics(应用语言学) is the study of the teaching of foreign and second languages.
Sociolinguistics is the study of the relationship between language and society.
Psycholinguistics is the study of the relationship between language and the mind.
Historical Linguistics(历史语言学) is the study of language changes.
Anthropological linguistics(人文语言学) uses the theories and methods of anthropology to study language variation and language use in relation to the cultural patterns and beliefs of man.
Neurolinguistics(神经语言学) studies the neurological basis of language development and use in human beings.
Mathematical linguistics(数学语言学) studies the mathematical features of language, often employing models and concepts of mathematics.
Computational linguistics(计算语言学) is an approach to linguistics in which mathematical techniques and concepts(概念) are applied, often with the aid of a computer.