In order to understand how language abilities emerge in typically and atypically developing infants and toddlers, it is important to embrace complexity in development. In this paper, we describe evidence that early language development is an experience-dependent process, shaped by diverse, interconnected, interdependent developmental mechanisms, processes, and abilities (e.g. statistical learning, sampling, functional specialization, visual attention, social interaction, motor ability). We also present evidence from our studies on neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, Williams syndrome) that variations in these factors significantly contribute to language delay. Finally, we discuss how embracing complexity, which involves integrating data from different domains and levels of description across developmental time, may lead to a better understanding of language development and, critically, lead to more effective interventions for cases when language develops atypically.