Raman scattering studies were performed in GaN nanoribbons grown along [1 0 0]. These samples were prepared inside Na-4 mica nanochannels by the ion-exchange technique and subsequent annealing in NH3 ambient. Detailed morphological and structural studies including the crystalline orientation were performed by analyzing the vibrational properties in these GaN nanoribbons. Pressure in the embedded structure was calculated from the blue shift of the E2(high) phonon mode of GaN. Possible red shift of optical phonon modes due to the quantum confinement is also discussed. In addition to the optical phonons allowed by symmetry, two additional Raman peaks were also observed at ∼633 and 678 cm−1 for these nanoribbons. Calculations for the wavenumbers of the surface optical (SO) phonon modes in GaN in Na-4 mica yielded values close to those of the new Raman modes. The SO phonon modes were calculated in the slab (applicable to belt-like nanoribbon) mode, as the wavenumber and intensity of these modes depend on the size and the shape of the nanostructures. The effect of surface-modulation-assisted electron–SO phonon scattering is suggested to be responsible for the pronounced appearance of SO phonon modes. A scaling factor is also estimated for the interacting surface potential influencing the observed SO Raman scattering intensities. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.