Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) can manifest as a spectrum of clinical syndromes, ranging from behavioural impairment to language or motor dysfunction. Recently, revised diagnostic criteria have been proposed for the behavioural and progressive aphasia syndromes associated with frontotemporal degeneration. The present review will summarize these diagnostic guidelines and highlight some lingering controversies in the classification of FTLD clinical syndromes. We will discuss common tools and methods used to identify the insidious changes of behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), the value of new, patient-based tasks of orbitofrontal function, and the issue of a benign or 'phenocopy' variant of bvFTD. With regard to primary progressive aphasia (PPA), we will discuss the scope of the semantic disorder in semantic-variant PPA, the nature of the speech disorder in non-fluent, agrammatic PPA, and the preliminary utility of a logopenic PPA classification.