Charles Carlton, a respected professor of French and Romance linguistics at the University for 33 years, died on March 9 at the Jewish Home of Rochester. Carlton, who retired from the linguistics department in 1999, 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.
Carlton, who received his Ph.D. 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 world scholars.
The bulk of Carlton's publications at the University, however, focused on the Romance language of Romanian and how it fit into the overall scheme of European languages. While Carlton received several fellowships to study Romanian, his fascination with the language 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, shepherds tending flocks, museums, music, and the warm and friendly populace.
"I remember Charlie as a passionate scholar who loved knowledge for its own sake and who loved to share it, along with a good dose of wit and humor, with both students and colleagues," said Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio, associate professor of Italian in the department of modern languages and cultures. "I will never forget his office on the fourth floor of Dewey Hall—a sort of museum, full of memorabilia from several Romance language-speaking parts of the world—and his amazing collection of French grammar books whose 'aesthetic beauty' he was in a unique position to appreciate."
For more than three decades of his life, 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.
"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 him 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."
Carlton is survived by his wife Mary, his sons David of Cincinnati, Oh., John of Boston, Ma., and Stephen of Plover, Wi., his sister Jean Denton of Hartford, Ct., and four grandchildren. A private service was held by the family. Donations may be made to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Rochester International Council, or the Jewish Home Foundation.