‘How’ for ‘why’ is from Chinookan
Saying qʰáta ‘how’ to express ‘why’ in CW looks to be modeled on Chinookan languages’ patterns.
And it’s probably the earliest, oldest way of asking why in CW.
We can find it in Shoalwater-Clatsop Lower Chinookan:
You can understand most of this one if you know CW! Boas 1894:24
The twist in the plot here is that the above is a rarity.
Here’s the usual way of asking ‘why’ in Lower Chinookan:
Suffixed variants of the above are used in an apparently synonymous way in Shoalwater-Clatsop, such as the extremely common qáda-qa and the less common qada-x̣í. I do not know what these suffixes mean. The other Lower Chinookan language, Kathlamet, consistently has the related (but very different from CW) qátsqi / qáchqi, as well as the quite different tán-txu.
(There’s also a rare Shoalwater-Clatsop x̣waw, which I’m guessing might be just an interjection of amazement, sort of like ‘What! You’re wearing that to the party?!’)
In the Upper Chinookan branch of the family, Clackamas says dán-ba?, literally ‘on what?’ Kiksht has the cognate of that, as well as qə́nəgi.
That’s all of the Chinookan languages for you. And it’s pretty clear that Shoalwater-Clatsop is the one that’s closest to Chinuk Wawa in regard to expressing ‘why?’ as ‘how?’
Have we in effect found yet another Indigenous metaphor in Chinuk Wawa here?