We present a theoretical study of the zone-center optical phonons in wurtzite AlxGa1-xN alloys over the whole compositional range from pure GaN to pure AlN. The phonon modes are broadened upon alloying and their frequencies display a blue shift with increasing Al concentration. The E2 and E1(TO) modes display a two-mode like behavior and do not preserve a well-defined symmetry in the alloy but rather are mixed and have a large broadening. The LO modes, instead, display a one-mode behavior and have a well-defined symmetry, small broadening, and a pronounced dependence of the frequency upon alloy composition. Therefore, we propose them as the best candidates for the compositional characterization of these materials. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.