luminous vs. light as adjectives

Subject: luminous vs. light as adjectives
From: Robert Bononno <bononno -at- ACF2 -dot- NYU -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 1994 22:53:15 -0500

I was trying to explain to my translation students how to translate a
couple of Fr. expressions incorporating the Fr. adjective lumineux
(-euse), which translates as either "light" or "luminous". Now, in a
majority of cases in technical material, this translates as luminous
(luminous flux, luminous emitance, etc.), but not always. In some cases
it translates as light, eg., light wave, light ray, etc.

Does anyone know if and how we distinguish between these uses in English?
It appears that luminuous is used to describe measurable quantities of
light or luminance, but "light" simply indicates prepositional construction:
light wave = wave of light (radiation), light ray = ray of light. (I know
there's a name for this but I've forgotten it.)

Does anyone know how physics distinguishes between them or if light is,
in fact, an adjective in these cases?

Robert Bononno

bononno -at- acf2 -dot- nyu -dot- edu

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