Civis, civitas, civilitas

Translations in Modern Italian and Conceptual Change

in Contributions to the History of Concepts
Sandro Chignola Università di Padova

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By focusing on the Italian translations of civilization, the author explores ways in which conceptual change has reflected historical developments in Italy. Unlike the widespread literal translation of civilization from English or French to other languages, civilizzazione has been a marginal term in Italian. On the other hand, terms such as civiltà, more akin to the Latin civitas, are more frequently employed. e article maps out the complex semantics of civitas and how its trajectory in the philosophy of history was uniquely translated into Italian. Whereas in other European nations civilization and the notion of historical progress it conveyed became a central concept, in Italy, due to the elaboration of an identity heavily influenced by Christian heritage, the more static concept of civiltà proved to be more significant.

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