Tree in Turkish Language

Turkish language is a member of Ural–Altaic language family. The basic word order of Turkish is subject–object–verb. Latin alphabet is used in writing (with some additional letters such as ş,i,ç,ö,ü,ğ,ı). Time and person information is given by adding suffix at the end of the word stem. The equivalent word for “tree” in Turkish is “ağaç”. First written resources of Turkish language are Orkhon inscriptions, found in today’s Mongolia. Expectedly, the first usage of the word “ağaç” is found in Orkhon inscriptions. Because tree is a crucial element in Turkish culture and widely encountered in daily lives of Turkish people, many poets and writers mentioned about trees. Although it is not a scientific approach, by analyzing some selected elements of Turkish language I will try to determine environmental identity of Turkish people.

What is Environmental Identity?

According to environmental psychologist Clayton, “environmental identity is one part of the way in which people form their self-concept: a sense of connection to some part of the nonhuman natural environment, based on history, emotional attachment, and/or similarity, that affects the ways in which we perceive and act toward the world; a belief that the environment is important to us and an important part of who we are”. 

Tree in Turkish Literature 

In the view of such information, we will observe some Turkish idioms and poems.

First, let’s examine idioms. For example, an idiom saying “Trees are beautiful with their leaves.” means that when you make something with your loved ones such as friends, family, relatives etc. this work will be more beautiful. In this context, tree is presented as society which has member’s as leaves. In another idiom saying “Worms riddle trees, trouble riddle humans.” is a metaphor. It indicates the similarity between aging process of humans and decay process of trees. In the perspective of this idiom, tree is seen such a human. In idiom saying “Plant a tree, it will bring you fruits. Bring up a son, he will bring you bread.”, tree symbolizes child. There are many other idioms using tree concept. Mostly, tree is used in metaphors on be half of humans.

Orhan Veli Kanık is one of most known writers of Turkish Literature. Let’s take look at one of his nurses rhyme: My Tree


I wouldn’t love you this much
If there was another tree besides you
In our neighborhood.
But if you
Knew how to play slide
With us
I would love you more.

My beautiful tree!
When you wither
I hope
We will have moved to another neighborhood. 

In this poem, poet expresses feelings of a child about a specific tree in her/his neighborhood. The child says s/he wouldn’t love the tree that much if there were other trees in his/her neighborhood. By this saying, the child indicates that there is only a tree in that area. However, s/he also remarks that s/he is uncomfortable with this issue, because he loves trees and if they had other trees in their neighborhood he says he will love those too. Because the child expresses that he wants to play with that tree in the playground, we understand that s/he sees it as his friend. Furthermore, we might say, the child is strictly attached to the tree because s/he doesn’t want to live in that neighborhood without it. In the development process of environmental identity, there are a few notions to check to determine whether environmental identity of the child is developing, or not. Those notions are attachment to outdoor places, attachment to other species, and anthropomorphism. Because the child is attached to the tree, we may say that the child has a developing environmental identity in that sense.

Nazım Hikmet Ran is one of the writers who successfully reflects perspective of Turkish people to literature. Let’s examine a poem of him: The Walnut Tree 


my head foaming clouds, sea inside me and out
I am a walnut tree in Gülhane Park
an old walnut, knot by knot, shred by shred
Neither you are aware of this, nor the police

I am a walnut tree in Gülhane Park
My leaves are nimble, nimble like fish in water
My leaves are sheer, sheer like a silk handkerchief
pick, wipe, my rose, the tear from your eyes
My leaves are my hands, I have one hundred thousand
I touch you with one hundred thousand hands, I touch Istanbul
My leaves are my eyes, I look in amazement
I watch you with one hundred thousand eyes, I watch Istanbul
Like one hundred thousand hearts, beat, beat my leaves

I am a walnut tree in Gülhane Park
neither you are aware of this, nor the police.

A photo from Gülhane Park (

In this interval, Nazım Hikmet is wanted by the police. He used to go Gülhane Park to meet with his darling. One day that he went there, he saw the police looking for himself. He hid behind the walnut tree that he mentioned. Then, he wrote this poem. Therefore, he presents himself as a walnut tree. In this poem, tree is expressed with its wisdom and serenity. Furthermore, there are other natural elements in poem such as clouds, fish and sea. Obviously, the poet shows significant inclusion of nature into himself.

Environmental Identity of Turkish People

By observing those poems and idioms, we can roughly deduce environmental identity of Turkish people. Because poets and writers inspired from their environment they give a lot of information about a people and their way of living in specific time intervals. Therefore, I chose to investigate Turkish Literature in order to deduce environmental identity of Turkish people. We know that there are various measurement systems to measure environmental identity such as Environmental Identity Scale (EID), Inclusion of Nature in the Self (INS), Implicit Association Test, Emotional Affinity with nature, Connectedness with nature scale. To facilitate the deduction process and connect our sample literary works with environmental identity, I tried to determine common underlying concepts of those identity tests. I saw that spend time in natural areas, degree that the individual sees herself/himself a part of nature, whether the individual thinks that s/he has commons with other species, and whether the individual pays attention to environmental issues are main concepts of those tests. From samples, we infer that people spend time in natural areas such as parks and forests. Furthermore, in most of the idioms people mentioned as trees and also writers present them selves as trees. Therefore, we can say that Turkish people see them as a part of nature, rather than dominating it. Just like in idiom “Worms riddle trees, trouble riddle humans.”, they see a lot of common features with at least trees species. Lastly, they pay attention to environmental issues because even the child in poem “My Tree” doesn’t want to live at that area without that tree.


Akıncı, M. (n.d.). İstanbul Gülhane Parkı/Istanbul Gulhane Park. Retrieved from

Akgül, F. (n.d.). Ağacım/My Tree. Retrieved from

Clayton, S. (2003). Environmental Identity: A Conceptual and an Operational Definition. In S. Clayton & S. Opotow (Eds.), Identity and the natural environment: The psychological significance of nature (pp. 45-65). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Turkish Language Class. (n.d.). Ceviz Ağacı/ The Walnut Tree. Retrieved from