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Why is the word сосед declined as соседей instead of соседов since the stem ending is a consonant?

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    Let's hope someone gives a detailed answer but in a nutshell - there are nouns with irregularities in declension and you've stumbled across one of them. Your lessons don't seem to mention this at all. – tum_ Apr 25 at 10:50
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    I presume you know how to use Wiktionary to check the declension forms. The noun сосед is marked as "тип склонения 1a^ по классификации А. А. Зализняка", where the ^ symbol means "особые случаи отклонений, нерегулярное словоизменение". – tum_ Apr 25 at 11:28
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It's just an exception. In Zalizniak's Grammatical Dictionary this word is marked with the △ sign:

  • сосе́д мо 1a △ мн. сосе́д|и, -ей, -ям

http://gramdict.ru/search/сосед

This word's stem gets softened in the plural: соседи, соседям, соседях (rather than *соседы, *соседам, *соседах) so the declension follows the soft pattern (as if the nominative singular were *соседь, similar to медведь, лебедь, жёлудь).

As to exactly why and how this exception came into existence, I have no information. At least соседи is consistent throughout the plural. There are cases when softness is lost in just one form, genitive plural: башни - башен (not *башень) but деревни - деревень.

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