|El Salvador, Honduras|
|Linguistic classification||Hokan ?
Lencan is a small family of nearly extinct indigenous Mesoamerican languages.
There are two attested Lencan languages, both extinct (Campbell 1997:167).
The languages are not closely related; Swadesh (1967) estimated 3,000 years since separation. Arguedas Cortés (1987) reconstructs Proto-Lencan with 12 consonants (including ejectives) and 5 vowels.
Their external relationships are disputed. Inclusion within Macro-Chibchan was often proposed; Campbell (1987) reported that there was no solid evidence for such a connection, but Constenla (2005) proposed regular correspondence between Lencan, Misumalpan, and Chibchan. Another proposal links Lencan with the Xincan language family (Campbell 1997). On the other hand, Jolkesky (2017:45-54) found some compelling lexical evidence, such as pronouns and kinship terms, which may point to the inclusion of the Lencan language family in the Hokan stock.
The Proto-Lencan homeland was most likely in central Honduras (Campbell 1997:167).
At the time of the Spanish conquest of Central America in the early 16th century, the Lenca language was spoken by the Lenca people in a region that incorporated northwestern and southwestern Honduras, and neighboring eastern El Salvador, east of the Lempa river. While the Lenca people continue to live in the same region today, Lyle Campbell reported in the 1970s that he found only one speaker of the language in Chilanga, El Salvador, and none in Honduras. Campbell also concluded that Salvadoran Lenca was a distinct language from Honduran Lenca.
Indigenous movements in both countries are attempting to revive the language, and recent press reports from Honduras indicate that elementary school textbooks in Salvadoran Lenca have been distributed to public schools in the region.