Why is the third "that" not implying the primary sources modify something about the historian's hot debate?

It is a sad but just indictment of some high school history textbooks that they frequently report as factual (those) claims that historians hotly debate or that are even completely _______ by reliable primary sources.

If you filled in the blank with the appropriate verb X, Why does this sentence not mean reliable primary sources X the debate of the historians?

Why does the sentence mean primary sources X the claims?

  • I wonder if the mix of active and passive voice is confounding you? All active: They report as factual (those) claims that historians hotly debate or that reliable primary sources even completely debunk. Jan 7 at 1:40
  • @TinfoilHat While you were typing, I had been reformulating in another window: It’s sad how some textbooks present as settled fact various claims still under active debate or even long ago disproven.
    – tchrist
    Jan 7 at 1:48
  • @TinfoilHat Can primary sources debunk? I don't think there are any verbs that are felicitous in the blank. You can't say anything was done by a primary source other than positing something. It is the nature of primary sources that other things be compared to it.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jan 7 at 2:42
  • See 'that are even…' That even is introducing a comparison: 'claims that historians hotly debate or (claims) that are even (whatever).' I'm expecting the 'whatever' to be something stronger than hotly debated, something like 'refuted' or such. Even little words matter sometimes. Jan 7 at 6:50

1 Answer 1


The separator or forces the grouping as follows:

They frequently report as factual those claims (A - that historians hotly debate) or (B - that are even completely debunked by reliable primary sources).

B does not modify A, though they contrast. If you want to say that B goes further than A by upping the ante, which it does, but cannot do so without A coming first, and that means it modifies it ... well, no. It doesn't mean that any more than saying a disagreement with this explanation compliments it due to being based on it for argument. So, no.

  • 1
    I liked complements better. :(
    – tchrist
    Jan 7 at 1:25

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