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as clear and detailed as these memories feel, psychologists have discovered they are surprisingly inaccurate.

Since the clause, "as clear and detailed as these memories feel", modifies "psychologists", the sentence implies that these psychologists are clear that the memories are inaccurate.

But this implication just doesn't hit for me. My guess is that the clause doesn't modify the psychologist but instead serve to contrast how the memories feel and how they actually are.

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    What made you think that “as clear and detailed as these memories feel” modifies psychologists? It does not. It doesn’t modify anything. It’s a subordinate clause. It refers to they in the following main clause, but it does not modify it. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 7 '15 at 17:13
  • The conjunction 'but' is used to signal a contrast with information that was already introduced - most likely in the sentence which immediately preceded this one. As Janus indicates, 'as clear and detailed as these memories feel' is a subordinate clause referring to the preceding sentence, and can be entirely ignored. You would then have, 'But ... psychologists have discovered they [the memories previously referred to] are surprisingly inaccurate.' – user98990 Jul 7 '15 at 17:32
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    For more, I suggest you read the Wikipedia article on anaphora, which is short, but quite clear (just ignore the bit about generative grammar, that's not relevant here). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 7 '15 at 17:49
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    No, because “just as clear” is not a clause. There’s no verb. It doesn’t work very well as a modifier either, but at least it’s clear that it’s supposed to be a modifier, albeit a clumsy one. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 7 '15 at 18:59
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    That is a clause—it has a verb: “as clear as the river water is”. If you take out the verb, it loses its status as a clause and is interpreted as a modifier: “as clear as the river water, the sea water has fish in it”, which would still be an odd sentence, but only semantically—grammatically, it’s fine. (Note: river water frequently has fish, too.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 7 '15 at 19:10
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Reinserting the implied 'that' may help.

But as clear and detailed as these memories feel, psychologists have discovered that they are surprisingly inaccurate.

Then we can reorder the sentence:

But psychologists have discovered that, as clear and detailed as these memories feel, they are surprisingly inaccurate.

NOTE

At first sight the problem appears to be caused by starting the sentence with but. However the analysis above shows that the problem can be resolved even if the 'but' is retained.

  • Yes "but" doesn't matter here. The reason for my thinking is that whatever comes before the comma modify the subject. – most venerable sir Jul 7 '15 at 17:34
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You are right , your interpretation of the sentence is not correct. You can simplify the sentence in this way: These memories feel clear and detailed. But psychologists have discovered these memories are inaccurate. The first clause is in contrast to the main clause and has restricting force similar to "Even if".

Concessive subclauses have an astonishing and confusing variety. So it is advisable to throw a look at adverbial clauses of concession in a grammar.

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It means something like this: "Despite the fact that these memories feel clear and detailed, psychologists have discovered that they (the memories) are surprisingly inaccurate."

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