We present a mini review of progress made towards theoretical modelling of surface phonons. We outline the essential ingredients of two theoretical methods, viz. an adiabatic bond charge method for semiconductor surfaces and the ab-initio density-functional perturbation method for solid surfaces in general. From the results of theoretical calculations we establish trends and criteria for the existence of localized phonon modes on group-IV(001) and III-V(110) semiconductor surfaces. We further obtain signatures of characteristic vibrational modes which develop during dissociative molecular adsorption on Si(001) surfaces. The results are compared with available experimental measurements. Some remarks are forwarded regarding manipulation of surface phonon modes for scientific advances and technological applications.