Professor William Curtis Blaylock earned his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 1964, where he studied with Yakov Malkiel, a legendary figure in the field of Romance Philology. His dissertation was entitled “Studies in Possible Osco-Umbrian Influence on Hispano-Romance Phonology”.
Kurt Blaylock taught in the Department of Spanish (Italian) and Portuguese at UIUC since 1962 until his retirement in 1998. His research interests were mostly in the field of Spanish historical linguistics and dialectology, a field where he made insightful contributions showing a great depth of scholarship, including “The monophthongization of Latin AE in Spanish” (Romance Philology 1964), “Hispanic metaphony” Romance Philology 1965), “Assimilation of stops to preceding resonants in Ibero-Romance” (Romance Philology 1966), “Latin L-, -LL- in the Hispanic dialects: Retroflexion and lenition”(Romance Philology 1968), “The -udo participles of Old Spanish” (1972), “The Romance development of the Latin verbal augment -SK-” (Romance Philology 1975) and “Notes on the chronology of a morphophonological change in Golden-Age Spanish: The loss of -d- in proparoxytonic forms of the second person plural verbs” (Hispanic Review, 1986). Many of his papers, including correspondence with Yakov Makiel, are held in the University of Illinois Archives.
Kurt Blaylock had a passion for language learning and he spoke many languages fluently, including virtually all main Romance languages, in addition to German and Danish. He was constantly studying new languages and seeking opportunities to practice them. In the years immediately before his retirement and also after he retired he was learning Modern Greek, Turkish and Chinese. He also enrolled in BASQUE 401 when he was already an Emeritus Professor. He did not like to boast about his knowledge of languages, so no one knows how many languages he learned. Tragically, in 2012 he had a stroke that affected the language area of his brain. With persistence and effort he recovered some of his lost ability with language and the last time he contacted a member of the Department, a few months before his death, he was able to have a conversation in both English and Spanish.
Kurt Blaylock was a kind, generous man. His friendliness was both deep and wide: he greeted new acquaintances with delight and remained in touch with his many friends around the world throughout his life. His sense of humor and love of long, involved jokes (usually culminating in puns) were notorious. Professor Kurt Blaylock was beloved by his students and his friends. He will be fondly remembered by those of us who were fortunate enough to know him.