Perspectiva (translations)

We present modern translations of the term ‘perspectiva’—the original Latin term for the English ‘perspective’; tracking its origin(s) and modern form(s).

Western Origins

Perspectiva is a complex term with a long history of different interpretations of meaning. Indeed the confusion continues in the present day because it is often apparent that perspective means different things to different people. 

‘Perspectiva’, says Durer, ‘is a Latin word and means “durcheshung”: a view through something’. But the word perspectiva also sometimes refers to perspicere in looking directly at something or ‘seeing a form clearly‘ with your eyes.

By the 1480’s Brunelleschi had developed what painters today call ‘perspective’—a series of methods of graphic representation of a three-dimensional scene (typically 2D view of a 3D scene); as opposed to the overlaid processes of purely ‘visual perspective‘ employed when looking directly at a scene.

Whist tracing the origins of perspective in various languages, we herein study both the visual (or looking at) and graphical (or representation of) meanings of the term, as explained below.

Categories of Perspective

As detailed on this site, perspective is a complex term with multiple meanings.

Our Dictionary of Perspective identified over 200 different classes of perspective. Nevertheless, we reduced this set down to specific kinds of Visual, Optical, and Technical Perspective; namely the six primary sub-classes: Natural, Mathematical, Graphical, Instrument, Forced, and Media Perspective(s); plus an extra class named Non-Technical Perspective. 

To begin our etymological analysis, we focus on the Natural (Visual, Environmental) plus Mathematical and Graphical forms of Perspective; which are the most commonly understood types.

Etymological Analysis

Linguistics refers to the system of terms belonging or peculiar to a science, art, or specialised subject; nomenclature: the terminology of perspective.

We are concerned with the origins and history and use of perspective as a word/concept within each language, and across multiple languages. In particular, we wish to examine perspective as a term, in each case being either cognate, a loanword, doublet, or simply a direct translation of perspective.

Cognates are sets of words in different languages inherited in direct descent from an etymological ancestor on a common parent or root language. Loanwords are borrowed from one language to another. Doublets are pairs of words in the same language derived from a single etymon, which may have similar but distinct meanings and uses. Translations are semantic equivalents.

Here at the PRC, we have examined the etymology of the perspective term in Western culture (see Etymology page); specifically to explore the term’s history and to define the origins of related concept(s) in other languages. 

Patently, the task of analysing the Etymology of perspective, both within each language and across multiple languages, has only just begun.

Indo-European Languages

The Latin or Roman alphabet is the collection of letters originally used by the ancient Romans to write the Latin language. Largely unaltered, with the exception of extensions, it is used to write English and other modern European languages.

Latin is part of the Indo-European family of languages that came from an unknown common root language; Proto Indo-European. Sanskrit, Latin, Celtic, and Germanic languages are (among others) said to belong to the Indo-European family. See Table One below for sample mappings of the perspective term to several Indo-European languages (beginning list only).

Note that there are at least six European languages that are not Indo-European; including Finish, Hungarian, Estonian, Basque, Sami and Maltese.

LanguageTermOrigins / Meaning
FrenchLa PerspectiveTBD
Persianچشم اندازTBD
Table 1: Mapping of Perspective Term to some Indo-European Languages

We shall expand this list of mappings for Indo-European Languages as time allows; and also explore the meanings and subtle changes in emphasis present amongst the various cultures involved.

Non-European Languages

Non-European languages are vast in number and possess a considerable diversity.

LanguageTermOrigins / Meaning
Chinese看法 – KànfǎTBD
Table 2: Mapping of Perspective Term to some Non-Indo-European Languages

Once again, as time allows, we shall expand this list of mappings for non-european languages; and explore the various meanings and subtle changes in emphasis present amongst the cultures involved.

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This page is under construction, and is only at an early stage of development.

We seek to work with researchers who are experts in linguistics; to accurately map Western/Eastern perspective terms/concepts to inherent meanings; and also to find unique Eastern examples where no Western analogue for a term/concept exists (for example). So interested researchers kindly get in touch to discuss how we can collaborate to progress this goal.
In the meantime, feel free to contact us with any questions.

We appreciate your patience.

Alan Radley -- 31st December 2022 --

Dr Alan Radley FRSA | Scientific Director

Perspective Research Centre