Toronto’s Financial District: A Fieldwork Assignment

Authors

  • Arya Khana

Abstract

This project explores the use of signage and place names in Toronto’s Financial District, focussing first on how signs are used in the district (with specific examples and a discussion of implications), and second, on how people refer to the district (that is, the words used to describe the area and the meanings and implications of those words). The research methodology includes direct observation and interviews of four subjects. This study reveals that several types of signs—both formal and informal—are prevalent in Toronto’s Financial District. Formal signs are those created by the government or businesses, and target both tourists and locals who work in the district. These signs suggest that the Financial District is an area for affluent workers and is supposedly a welcoming space for the international community (although English is the dominant language). Formal signs hint that those who work in the district are “successful,” and may encourage others to work diligently and aim for a career in the district. Informal signs are less frequently found in the area, indicating the high degree of control businesses have over the district. An analysis of word use reveals that the Financial District is commonly referred to as “Bay Street” by passersby, but is more likely to be called the “Financial District” by people who work there. This is examined in light of macro-level concepts such as globalization and group identity.

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