Recent developmental research on word processing has shown that mechanisms of lexical priming are already present in 12-month-olds whereas mechanisms of semantic integration indexed by the N400 mature a few months later. In a longitudinal setting we investigated whether the occurrence of an N400 at 19 months is associated with the children's language skills later on. To this end children were retrospectively grouped according to their verbal performance in a language test at 30 months. Children with later age-adequate expressive language skills already displayed an N400 at 19 months. In contrast, children with later poor expressive language skills who have an enhanced risk for the development of specific language impairment (SLI) did not show an early N400. The results imply that children who have deficits in their expressive language at the age of 30 months are already impaired in their semantic development about one year earlier.