This is a naturalistic study of the development of language in Hebrew-speaking children with Williams syndrome (WS) and children with Down syndrome (DS), whose MLU extended from 1·0 to 4·4. Developmental curves over the entire span of data collection revealed minor differences between children with WS, children with DS, and typically developing (TD) controls of similar MLU. Development within one calendar year showed remarkable synchrony among the variables. However, age of language onset and pace of acquisition departed significantly from normal timing. It is argued that in view of the centrality of genetic timing and the network properties of cognition, normal schedules are crucial determinants of intact development. Consequently, with respect to neurodevelopmental syndromes, the so-called ‘language delay’ is indicative of deviance that is likely to impact development in critical ways.