The article investigates the roles of MOOD and MODALITY in the recreation of the image of Chan master Huineng in four English translations of The Platform Sutra by Wong Mou-lam, (Sutra Spoken by the Sixth Patriarch, Wei Lang, on the High Seat of the Gem of Law (Message from the East), 1930), Heng Yin, (The Sixth Patriarch's Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra, 1977), Thomas Cleary, (The Sutra of Hui-neng, grand master of Zen: with Hui-neng's commentary on the Diamond Sutra, 1998) and Cheng Kuan (The Dharmic Treasure Altar-Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, 2011). MOOD refers to the mood types of indicative and imperative, and MODALITY covers the semantic space between ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Adopting SysFan, a computational tool for doing systemic and functional analysis, the study investigates the choice of mood types and the values of modality (low, median and high) in each translation. Heng and Cleary favour high-valued modality more than Wong and Cheng though the mood type of declarative is adopted by all. They also use more imperative clauses and indicative clauses with high-valued modality than the latter. Consequently, two types of image are recreated of Huineng: an authoritative and forceful Huineng presented by the two American translators, and a prudent and polite Huineng presented by the two Chinese translators. The investigation shows that the phenomenon cannot be accounted for by the translators’ linguistic competence. Instead, the context of the translation, especially the tenor, should be taken into consideration to interpret these two types of image of Huineng.
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- systemic functional linguistics