Lexical gaps are examples of lack of lexicalization detected in a language while comparing two languages. A concept is lexicalized when a language has a lexical item – a single word, a complex word, an idiom or a collocation – to express it. It was claimed the existence of a lexical gap only when a concept lacks lexicalisation and is expressed by a free word combination or any other transformation in translation. But a multi-word expression “juvelyriniai dirbiniai” (“jewellery”) or “zoologijos sodas” (“a zoo”) are not lexical gaps, because they are fixed word expressions and are used as single units of meaning. Besides, for the concepts explained by the expressions mentioned above, Lithuanians have no alternative expressions. Meanwhile, “atleidimas dėl darbo vietų mažinimo” (“redundancy”) or “derliaus nuėmimo mašina” (“a harvester”) are lexical gaps, because they are free word combinations, in real language convert by different techniques – lexical or syntactic changes. It is important to say that a lexical gap appears only in one of the compared languages. In other words, during translation from English into Lithuanian, it is identified a lexical gap only in Lithuanian.
A major group of lexical gaps can be explained by social and cultural differences of source and target language. A lexical gap in a target language is identified when its users do not know a concept of a source language. For example, Lithuanian food names “vėdarai” or “skilandis” cannot be translated into English, because they show Lithuanian culture. Another group of lexical gaps could be called paradigmatic (tipical) due to differences in various examples of two languages. A type of this group is morphological gaps, which comes from word formation differences. For example, “biculturalism” is translated by a free word combination “priklausymas dviem kultūroms” because of the “bi-”, which had to be explained in Lithuanian, or “undernourishment”, which due to the peculiar combination of the prefix “under-” and “nourishment”, has to be expressed by a free word combination “nepakankama mityba”.
The term “derivational gaps” identify those gaps within the limits of one language. Derivational gaps are words produced from partially productive stems and suffixes, which are understandable, but not acceptable in a language.
Meanwhile, in Lithuanian, only prefixes or suffixes appearing mostly in international words, usually of some specialized areas, matches to their English analogues, for example, “metamotyvacija” (“metamotivation”), “parametras” (“parameter”), “socializmas” (“socialism”) or “imunoterapija” (“imunotherapy”). However, in non-specialised vocabulary these prefixes and suffixes are rare. In many cases such complex concepts covered by one English word have to be changed by several Lithuanian words, usually, a free word combination, e.g., caravanning – autoturizmas su nameliu-priekaba – (auto-tourism by a house-trailer). “Caravanning” is an especially interesting example, because it shows the complexity of the problem. Not only it represents a concept that is not common enough to have a fixed lexicalisation in Lithuanian, but in this particular instance it shows the disability of the language to express an action or its process too. The suffix -ing is changed by a lexical word “autoturizmas”.
Moreover, it could be considered as a micro-transformation, because the lack of direct translation of “caravan” is compensated by skipping the meaning component of “auto” to “auto-turizmas”. It is possible that such translations appear when two problems – cultural/economic and morphological – go together.
To sum up, the translation difficulties when the target language is Lithuanian comprise of translating lexical gaps. A major group of lexical gaps can be explained by social and cultural differences of source and target language. A lexical gap could be identified when users do not know a concept of a source language. Misunderstanding of concept is also a common translation mistake.