Early language delay (ELD) is a warning sign that may presage the presence of a later language impairment (LI). In order to allow more targeted identification and earlier intervention for LI, better diagnostic measures for toddlers are needed. Development of accurate predictive/diagnostic models requires consideration of a set of complex interrelated questions around definition, causality, and theories of LIs. A multifactorial model of language development and LI is essential to increase the accuracy of prediction. This article examines what is known about LI in the preschool years and language delay in toddlers, and examines these in relation to the Procedural Deficit Hypothesis (Ullman and Pierpont,  Cortex 41:399–433] and the Statistical Learning Account (Stokes et al., [2012a] J Speech Lang Hear Res; Stokes et al., [2012b] J Child Lang 39:105–129) to suggest a new framework for characterizing ELD to better assist prediction of later LI. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Disabil Res Rev 2012;17:160–169.