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I am interested in knowing the part of speech (ie. noun, pronoun, adverb, conjunction, etc...) that the word "but" would be in this instance.

But he has been hampered in his research by the indefensible failure of the State Bar of California to provide the statistics he needs.

I have read elsewhere that "but" almost always represents a conjunction, but in this sentence, it does not seem to conjoin anything.

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    Welcome to EL&U. 'But' can begin a sentence and the context of the previous sentence will demonstrate what is being contrasted. It is still a conjunction when it begins the sentence. What is being 'conjoined' is in the previous sentence. – Nigel J Jan 19 '18 at 3:40
  • I agree with Nigel. Sentences are not required to be autonomous thought. – Jesse Ivy Jan 19 '18 at 8:57
  • In your own sentence (last paragraph of your question), you could replace the comma before 'but' with a full stop. You'd then be using 'but' in the same way. – Lawrence Jan 19 '18 at 12:49
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It is still a conjunction. It is quite common to start a new sentence with a conjunction - to add some extra emphasis.

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