University of Rochester

Charles Carlton: Professor Who ‘Loved Languages’

Charles Carlton, a longtime University professor of French and Romance linguistics, was well-known for his dedication to students and unabashed passion for a broad range of cultures and languages, particularly the relatively neglected study of Romanian. In 1999, he retired from the linguistics department after 33 years of teaching.

Carlton, who received his PhD from the University of Michigan in Romance linguistics in 1963, came to Rochester in 1966 and was a member and section head of both the French and linguistics programs at different times. His 1973 book, A Linguistic Analysis of a Collection of Late Latin Documents Composed in Ravenna between A.D. 445 and 700, was a major contribution to the study of the origins of Romance languages that attracted critical acclaim from a wide variety of scholars.

The bulk of Carlton’s publications at the University, however, focused on the language of Romanian and how it fit into the overall scheme of European languages. While Carlton received several fellowships to study Romanian, his fascination began while he was on a National Defense Foreign Language fellowship at UCLA in 1970.

Carlton had said in earlier interviews that he developed a great fondness for the country’s picturesque countryside of tucked-away villages, old wooden churches, and museums.

“Charles was a man who quite simply loved languages,” says Gregory Carlson, a professor of linguistics, brain and cognitive sciences, and philosophy at the University. “He was always so easy to engage in discussions about language. Whatever the language and whatever the facts, he loved it all, and was ever eager to share as much as he could. This came through in his love of teaching.”

For more than three decades, Carlton was a recognized champion of Romania. He talked to local groups about Romanian culture, translated Romanian literature, helped found the Society for Romanian Studies, and edited the journal Miorita: A Journal of Romanian Studies. He also served as editor of the Comparative Romance Newsletter and kept an alphabetical up-to-date list of Romania-Rochester connections with names of students, academics, speakers, and visitors.

Carlton died March 9 at the Jewish Home of Rochester. He is survived by his wife Mary; his sons, David of Cincinnati, John of Boston, and Stephen of Plover, Wis.; his sister, Jean Denton, of Hartford, Conn.; and four grandchildren.

—June Avignone

ROMANIA DEVOTEE: Charles Carlton promoted and studied the country.