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A while back, I noticed that "сосе́д" is "сосе́ди" in the nominative plural and that "чёрт" becomes "че́рти." With "чёрт," my guess is that the "ё" affects the following letters, but with "сосе́ди," I have no idea why it isn't spelled "сосе́ды" like other words that end in a "д" (e.g., под -> поды́, вид -> ви́ды, ряд -> ряды́, наро́д -> наро́ды).

I realize there are many exceptions to the various Russian rules concerning spelling (as well as other types of declension and various aspects of grammatical structure). The ones that are completely different but seem to follow a pattern (e.g., those that take а/я instead of ы/и, those that drop letters, ...) I've been taking in stride, but because these two words here seem to flip the one rule on its head, my curiosity has been piqued a bit more than other exceptions to the rule.

To recap/wrap up, is my speculation about "чёрт" correct or way off mark? Was the word "сосе́д" once spelled differently ("сосе́дь" perhaps?). Or is is it something much more basic that I am just now noticing -- the "д" in "сосе́д" is preceded by a "е" and it, like the "ё" in "чёрт" affects the following letters in a similar way (turning them soft). Then again, that would not explain the plural of "отве́т" (отве́ты), "след" (следы́) and others like them. So, if anyone has any insight into these two words, thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge with us.

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Сосед and чёрт are the only nouns in modern Russian that retained the old Russian nominative plural form, so in a sense they are the only "correct" nouns with the historical stem. All others use the old accusative form in nominative. It used to be сосѣди (pl. nom.) / сосѣды (pl. acc.) etc.

Other words which retained the old plural nominative are один/одни, сам/сами, он/они.

As recently as 150 years ago forms like раб/раби, холоп/холопи and the adjective рад/ради ("glad") were still in use.

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    Do you know, why those two nouns kept the old plural form, while others changed? – Arsak Jul 16 '17 at 11:13
  • @Marzipanherz no I don't, unfortunately – Quassnoi Jul 16 '17 at 12:50
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    @Arioch: I doubt there is a common pattern for those two words. There was a time соседы almost made it to the literary language (Lazhechnikov, Karamzin and other prominent writers did use it). It's just that these two words have been clinging on to the old nominative harder than the others. Is there a pattern which would explain why is English "children" alive and kicking, "brethren" archaic and "eyren" long since dead? I doubt it. – Quassnoi Jul 17 '17 at 14:03
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    @SergeySlepov: сосѣди (nom.), сосѣды (acc.), сосѣдъ (gen.), сосѣдѣхъ (loc.), сосѣдомъ (dat.), сосѣды (instr.), сосѣди (voc.). That's Church Slavonic. In Old Russian (before XIV) it would be сусѣди etc. – Quassnoi Jul 21 '17 at 8:11
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    Спасибо, Quassnoi. Your answer was much more erudite than I was expecting and your somewhat rhetorical question about why English uses "children" instead of "childs" really brought it into perspective for me. Again, thank you for providing this community with such a thoughtful, well researched answer. – Lisa Beck Jul 25 '17 at 20:09

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