One of the big quarrels in the study of speech origins is over whether it is relatively new (about 100,000 years) or decently old (millions of years). This blog has consistently leaned toward the old origins story.
Basically, every time there is evidence of a complex genetic history, it's a point for old origins and every time there is evidence of a straight cultural story or one mutation does all, newbies look better.
A story in today's New York Times is titled "Genes Play Major Role in Primate Social Behavior, Study Finds" adds to the old origins score.
Human societies are quite distinct from chimps and gorillas. We are cooperative and modular, building up relationships across groups.
The study reports: Social structure does not change readily with the environment (presumably because the structure is genetically programmed); complex behavior does not evolve step by step (allowing for a genetically based, complex difference between chimps and us); and brains do not get bigger to handle larger social groups (challenging Robin Dunbar's theory that the human big brain and language origins reflects our larger groupings).
In the old days I would have raised a few questions about this study, but today I'm just going to say read the story. I read it while taking the train to work this morning and want to bring it to your attention this evening, before I fall into my bed.