This paper, with an eye to the interpersonal component in translational activities, adopts a systemic functional approach to the examination and comparison of modal patterns in interpreted and translated discourses of Chinese Premier’s press conferences and his reports on the work of the government from 2008 to 2012. Following a comprehensive analysis of modality in terms of type, orientation and value, the study shows that, despite their differences in translational mode (i.e. written and spoken) and temporal constraint (i.e. prepared and impromptu), interpreted and translated diplomatic discourses share some common trends in modal distribution. In particular, the massive use of modulation and the favorite collocation of first person pronouns with volitive modal verbs such as will are classic in discourses as such. Additionally, only a minimal number of low-valued modality is used in both translation and interpretation. Given the political sensitivity and policy orientation of diplomatic translation and the institutional identity of diplomatic translators, it is argued that an effective manipulation of modality is essential to their fulfillment of the capacity of “policy endorsers” in reproducing interpersonal connotations embedded in the source language. The paper may also shed some light on the research on translator/interpreters’ role.
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