The current study investigated early language characteristics in pre-school children (age 3.0 – 4.11) with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) compared to children with language impairment (LI), and typically developing children, using data from the cross-sectional Autism Birth Cohort Study, at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Background: There seems to be limited information in the literature regarding language characteristics in such a young sample of children, especially research looking at similarities and differences between children with ASD, LI and typically developing. Particularly looking at young Norwegian children with these difficulties is non-existent. Method: The current study is quantitative in methodology. It uses questionnaire and interview data from parental reports of language functioning, and direct testing of cognitive development to compare the three groups. For investigation of group differences analysis of variance (ANOVA) and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) were used, with the addition of more in-depth investigation of selected items from the main variables. Results: The current study shows there were both differences and similarities between the ASD and LI groups on language variables, compared to the TD group which scored significantly better on all variables. However both the ASD and LI group were found to be more similar than expected. Conclusion: The potential overlap between ASD and LI on language characteristics might be seen as an indication of overlapping difficulties. However, perhaps the most important potential implication from the current study is better understanding of early language characteristics which may lead to better interventions for both groups.