Elina Mainela-Arnold


+358 29 450 3016

+358 50 463 5719

Assistentinkatu 7


Office: 345

ORCID identifier: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0142-6412


Areas of expertise
Speech and language development, developmental language disorder/specific language impairment, bilingualism, language and cognition


completed my Master’s degree in speech-language pathology at the University of
Helsinki and my Ph.D. degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in
communicative disorders and psychology. After my defense, I held assistant
professor positions at Penn State University and at the University of Toronto.
I am currently a professor and the head of department of psychology and speech-language pathology at the
University of Turku.


Individual differences in language
learning inform us about the neurocognitive mechanisms involved in language
acquisition.  A fundamental question in
language acquisition asks if language acquisition utilizes a general purpose
learning mechanism or if dedicated cognitive mechanisms exclusive to language
learning are needed. My research focuses on identifying general purpose
cognitive (i.e. domain general) mechanisms underlying individual differences in
the ability for language learning. My particular focus has been comparisons
between children with typical language development (TD) and children with
developmental language disorder (DLD). Children with DLD exhibit difficulties
in the development of spoken language without any frank disability that would
explain their difficulties. Although the cause or causes of DLD are unknown,
heritability estimates suggest genetic contributions. While some candidate
genes have been identified, the progress has been erratic, perhaps because
diagnostic categories like DLD are likely to be heterogeneous with different
genetic and environmental underlying factors contributing to the heterogeneity.
Identifying measures of underlying cognitive markers together with
environmental risk factors is likely to allow a more accurate examination of
neural developmental processes and genes contributing to this disorder as well
as individual differences in language development. My research has directly
provided evidence for several domain general cognitive markers that are related
to individual differences in language development.

In addition to informing theories of language
development and DLD, my research makes a difference in the society. The
scientific findings of our studies help better identify language learning
impairments in children. Large scale studies have indicated that even though
childhood language impairments have significant negative academic, social,
employment and mental health consequences, DLD often remains undiagnosed and
untreated. I have been part of an interdisciplinary international CATALISE (Criteria
and Terminology Applied to Language Impairments: Synthesizing the Evidence)
consensus panel, which recently came out with recommendations for new evidence-based
terminology and diagnostic criteria for identifying childhood language
impairments (Bishop et al. 2016; 2017).  The
nonverbal cognitive and motor deficits present in DLD my research has provided
evidence for were recognized as a part of the language disorder profile and the
new term developmental language disorder was recommended. Some of these
recommendations were immediately reflected on the new ICD 11 (International
Classification of Diseases 11th Revision).


currently teach in the following speech-language pathology and psychology
courses at the University of Turku: Language across the lifespan, Evidence
based practice in speech-language pathology, Bilingualism, Assessment in
developmental disorders, Children’s neuropsychological- and communicative
disorders, Cognitive processes, Psychology of Language. I also mentor Bachelors,
Master’s and Doctoral thesis work.


Last updated on 2021-11-03 at 11:08