De facto and de jure theories of meaning

A distinction associated with use theories of meaning.

De facto theories give the meaning of a word in terms of how it is actually used; de jure theories give it in terms of how it should be used, or of rules for its use, claiming that actual usage may be incorrect.

Source:
L J Cohen, The Diversity of Meaning (1962, revised 1966), ch. 2

De jure

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In law and government, de jure (/d ˈʊəri, di -, ˈjʊər-/ day JOOR-ee, dee -⁠, YOOR-ee; Latin: dē iūre pronounced [deː ˈjuːrɛ], “by law”) describes practices that are legally recognised, regardless of whether the practice exists in reality.[1] In contrast, de facto (“in fact”) describes situations that exist in reality, even if not legally recognised.[2]

Examples

It is possible to have multiple simultaneous conflicting (de jure) legalities, possibly none of which is in force (de facto). After seizing power in 1526, Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi made his brother, Umar Din, the lawful (de jure) Sultan of Adal. Ahmad, however, was in practice (de facto) the actual Sultan, and his brother was a figurehead.[3] Between 1805 and 1914, the ruling dynasty of Egypt ruled as de jure viceroys of the Ottoman Empire, but acted as de facto independent rulers who maintained a polite fiction of Ottoman suzerainty. However, starting from around 1882, the rulers had only de jure rule over Egypt, as it had by then become a British puppet state. Thus, Egypt was by Ottoman law de jure a province of the Ottoman Empire, but de facto was part of the British Empire.[4]

In U.S. law, particularly after Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the difference between de facto segregation (segregation that existed because of the voluntary associations and neighborhoods) and de jure segregation (segregation that existed because of local laws that mandated the segregation) became important distinctions for court-mandated remedial purposes.[5]

In a hypothetical situation, a king or emperor could be the de jure head of state. However, if they are unfit to lead the country, the prime minister or chancellor would assumedly become the practical, or de facto leader, while the king remains the de jure leader.

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