Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context.
The first is the study of language structure, or grammar. This focuses on the system of rules followed by the speakers (or hearers) of a language. It encompasses morphology (the formation and composition of words), syntax (the formation and composition of phrases and sentences from these words), and phonology (sound systems). Phonetics is a related branch of linguistics concerned with the actual properties of speech sounds and nonspeech sounds, and how they are produced and perceived.
The study of language meaning is concerned with how languages employ logical structures and real-world references to convey, process, and assign meaning, as well as to manage and resolve ambiguity. This subfield encompasses semantics (how meaning is inferred from words and concepts) and pragmatics (how meaning is inferred from context).
Language in its broader context includes evolutionary linguistics, which considers the origins of language; historical linguistics, which explores language change; sociolinguistics, which looks at the relation between linguistic variation and social structures; psycholinguistics, which explores the representation and function of language in the mind; neurolinguistics, which looks at language processing in the brain; language acquisition, how children or adults acquire language; and discourse analysis, which involves the structure of texts and conversations.
Although linguistics is the scientific study of language, a number of other intellectual disciplines are relevant to language and intersect with it. Semiotics, for example, is the general study of signs and symbols both within language and without. Literary theorists study the use of language in literature. Linguistics additionally draws on and informs work from such diverse fields as psychology, speech-language pathology, informatics, computer science, philosophy, biology, human anatomy, neuroscience, sociology, anthropology, and acoustics.