In contrast to initial L1 vocabularies, which of necessity depend largely on heard exemplars, L2 vocabulary construction can draw on a variety of knowledge sources. This can lead to richer stored knowledge about the phonology of the L2 than the listener's prelexical phonetic processing capacity can support, and thus to mismatch between the level of detail required for accurate lexical mapping and the level of detail delivered by the prelexical processor. Experiments on spoken word recognition in L2 have shown that phonetic contrasts which are not reliably perceived are represented in the lexicon nonetheless. This lexical representation of contrast must be based on abstract knowledge, not on veridical representation of heard exemplars. New experiments confirm that provision of abstract knowledge (in the form of spelling) can induce lexical representation of a contrast which is not reliably perceived; but also that experience (in the form of frequency of occurrence) modulates the mismatch of phonetic and lexical processing. We conclude that a correct account of word recognition in L2 (as indeed in L1) requires consideration of both abstract and episodic information.